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December 31, 2005

LA fireman builds career around selfless service

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (Dec. 31, 2005) -- When his unit was activated, Sgt. David A. Arellano, watch chief, 5th Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, was faced with the difficult decision: should he remain behind fighting fires or deploy to Iraq with Marines he has served with for more than eight years?


Submitted by: II Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD)
Story Identification #: 20051231729
Story by Cpl. Heidi E. Loredo

The 25-year-old Marine reservist, who is also a two-year veteran of the Los Angeles Fire Department unselfishly, put his flame fighting days on hold to deploy with his Marines, a provisional military police battalion.

The Santa Clarita, Calif., native, enlisted into the Marine Corps Reserve on Christmas Eve 1997.

“I always thought it was a duty that guys had to do,” said Arellano, whose father has been a police officer with the Los Angeles Police Department for 30 years. “I felt I had to do my time. My dad was really pushing for my brother and me to go into the military. He told us it would make us men; and that it did. It made us stronger and well-rounded.”

Aside from his father’s advice, his grandfather and his brother were his inspiration. Arellano’s grandfather was a Marine during World War II and took part in several battles including Tarawa. His brother was also a Marine and the person Arellano always looked up to with reverence.

“He was activated during OIF I and took part in the march to Baghdad,” said Arellano. “He paved the way for me.”

Arellano knew he wanted to continue his education; however he also wanted the military background and discipline the Marine Corps offered. Instead of opting to enlist as an active duty Marine, he chose to be a reservist instead.

“I knew there was more to life than active duty,” said Arellano. “I wanted part of my life to be with the Corps, and I wanted to continue to pursue my passion which is to help people.”

While attending College of the Canyon in Valenica, Calif., Arellano took a pyrotechnical course, coincidently an introduction course required by the fire department. The class introduced him to the world of fighting fires and he continuously grew more interested in it.

“I’ve completed two associates’ degrees, which in my frame of mind equals a bachelor’s degree,” joked Arellano.

It wasn’t until he visited a job expo in his hometown did he see the possibility of becoming a firefighter, an ambition of his since attending his first class in college where he learned to love the history of the fire department.

“Firefighters used to put out fires with buckets by forming bucket brigades,” said Arellano. “There is so much tradition in everything that we do today. Like ladders, the city continues to use wooden ladders because it’s a very traditional piece of equipment.”

From the first moment at a new fire station he was introduced to fire service traditions.

“Being a rookie is a huge tradition to me because you learn so much about being a civil servant,” said Arellano. “You are the person who eats last, finishes first, washes dishes and offers the superiors anything they may need. Some people would consider it hazing but it’s traditional.”

Arellano said much like Marines no matter the rank or time in service, from the oldest person to the newest, everyone in the station puts in hard work.

When Arellano’s contract with the Marines came up he was not obligated to drill anymore, however he chose to continue. When he received word his unit was to be activated, he had to decide whether he should deploy or remain behind.

“I just started with the fire department, I had a wonderful girl back home and things were falling into place. I didn’t feel obligated to go but I did feel responsible for some of the Marines here because I’ve been with them for almost eight years now. I’ve seen some of them grow up to be fine Marines and I didn’t want to leave them.”

Arellano is anxious to return home to be with his family and his fiancé, whom he proposed to before his departure. The fire station he belonged to supports him during his deployment and he often receives packages from firefighters back home.

“They’re really supportive,” said Arellano. “The awesome thing about the fire department is that it’s exactly like the Marine Corps. They hold tradition in high value. It’s a great brotherhood and I plan on growing old in the fire department. I’ve gone to visit these firefighters and I learned wherever you’re at in the world you’re a firefighter and they consider you a brother.”

Please feel free to publish this story or any of the accompanying photos. If used, please give credit to the writer/photographer, and contact us at: [email protected] so we can update our records.

December 29, 2005

Santa Ana, Calif. native keeps Marines battle-ready

HADITHA DAM, Iraq (Dec. 27, 2005) -- Known as one of a Marine’s best friends, the Navy field corpsman spends most of his time keeping Marines healthy and battle-ready while operating in the most hostile combat environments.


Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20051227232215
Story by Cpl. Adam C. Schnell

Santa Ana, Calif., native, Petty Officer 2nd Class Carlos A. Lopez, not only spends his day performing basic corpsman duties but also keeps Marines in the fight as a physical therapy technician.

“Muscle-skeletal injuries are my bread and butter,” said the 26-year-old Lopez. “It is a great feeling when you see a Marine who was hurt but after a treatment plan, is back to doing everything they did before they got injured.”

As a physical therapy technician, Lopez treats patients on an almost daily basis for common injuries in Iraq, dealing with knees, ankles, and lower back problems. The amount of patrolling with more than 50 pounds of combat gear keeps the corpsman gainfully employed.

“I have three patients I see regularly right now,” Lopez commented. “But with Marines out at the bases all the time, some of my other patients I don’t see except every once in a while.”

When a Marine comes into the battalion aid station with a muscle-skeletal injury, they see Lopez, who spends time taking down symptoms, performing a physical exam and then coming up with a treatment plan. After talking with the medical officer and gaining approval, Lopez puts his treatment plan into affect, hopefully bringing the Marine back to 100 percent combat effectiveness.

“Seeing people progress from an injury to being 100 percent again is what makes the job great,” said Lopez, a 1997 San Marcos High School graduate.

Becoming a physical therapy technician in the Navy takes weeks of training. Because it was something Lopez really wanted to do, he got his chance to see what the therapy course had to offer after going on a deployment and being part of two different Marine units.

The eight-year Navy veteran got to test his skills as a physical therapy technician right after graduating the course. He was stationed at Naval Station Great Lakes, Ill., where he worked for almost three years with Navy recruits performing initial training.

“It was there that I really found out physical therapy was my thing,” he commented. “It was most rewarding actually seeing the recruits fully recuperate, graduate and become a part of the Navy.”

Along with his physical therapy technician duties, Lopez treats sick and wounded Marines who come from the field. He also helps treat Iraqi civilians and ensures the battalion’s area is free of insurgent activity.

“When a wounded Iraqi civilian comes in and has to be treated, I don’t see any difference than any other patient we have in here,” Lopez said. “To me, a patient is a patient, there is no difference.”

While treating patients on a daily basis, Lopez also takes time to help the junior corpsmen with any questions they might have. His collateral duties also include filing daily reports on patients and helping the medical officers with many matters that affect the BAS.

Helping the medical officers is something Lopez would like to do once done with his deployment. His plans include finishing his associate’s degree and putting in a package to be a physician’s assistant, which will further his career that he hopes lasts longer than 20 years.

“I would like to become a physician’s assistant, who is basically alongside the doctor at all times,” commented Lopez. “It is something I have wanted to do for a while now.”

And all the experiences he has had with the battalion while in Iraq may give him that chance to see another aspect of being a Navy corpsman.


Marine Sweeps for IEDs in Haqlaniyah

U.S. Marine Corps
Lance Cpl. Darin Wittnebel


Cpl. Adam C. Schnell
2nd Marine Division
HAQLANIYAH, Iraq, Dec. 29, 2005 — In the town of Haqlaniyah, the “Raiders” of Company I, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, continue to patrol the streets every day, keeping the area safe from the ongoing insurgency.

Lance Cpl. Darin J. Wittnebel, a native of Oconomowoc, Wis., goes on many of these patrols. He has a very important duty that helps him keep the “Raider Nation” safe from improvised explosive devices and find abandoned weapons caches. He carries the PSS-12 metal detector on every patrol.“The detector can pick up lots of stuff underneath the ground or under piles of garbage,” said the 20-year-old rifleman for the company. “We bring it with us because you never know when you will find a weapons cache or IED.”

Combat engineers attached to the battalion usually use the detector when on patrols. But with the lack of engineers and the number of patrols going in many different villages throughout the battalion’s area of operations, the idea came to send some riflemen to a class taught by the engineers.

“When we were back at the dam, my squad leader picked me to go to the class to be taught how to use the detector,” said Wittnebel, a 2003 Oconomowoc High School graduate.

The training has paid off.

Recently, Wittnebel and other Marines in his squad were out on a routine patrol providing security and talking with local people in the area. On their way back to the base, Wittnebel was sweeping the curbs when a loud beep came from the detector signaling the presence of a large metal object.

“I wasn’t sure what it was picking up, but I found out when I moved some trash away from the area and there was a bunch of wires attached to a battery assembly,” he said as he smiled. “As soon as I saw that I didn’t waste any time getting away from there. I just couldn’t believe that I found an IED just like that, and it was right outside the base.”

When not using his skills sweeping for IEDs and weapons caches, the former student of Waukesha County Technical College guards the base and is part of the quick reaction force for the company. Wittnebel said he enjoys spending every day working with his squad to keep the area safe.

“The thing I like best about being here is the people I work with,” commented Wittnebel. “Everyone comes from a different part of the world and you really get to know people out here.”

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Darin J. Wittnebel uses his PSS-12 metal detector to look for weapons caches in a courtyard in Haqlaniyah, Iraq, Nov. 26. Wittnebel, a rifleman with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, is one of the Marines in his company trained to operate the detector that helps make sure the town is safe of weapons caches and improvised explosive devices. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Adam C. Schnell

For Marines like Wittnebel, working with the metal detector on almost every patrol is a big help in finding IEDs and weapons caches here. According to 1st Lt. Jared W. Burgess, a platoon commander with the company, there have been numerous IEDs and weapons caches found in the area with the help of the metal detectors.

“It has definitely been a help having the detectors on almost every patrol,” said Burgess, a native of Walnut Creek, Calif. “It has been especially helpful in the palm groves and open desert so that Marines aren’t just digging around looking for things under ground without knowing if something is there or not.”

Away for the holidays

For some military families, Christmas can be a heart-wrenching time. Several area families count themselves among many around the country who will not be united with loved ones this season.

(Andrew and Robyn Cobb - members of Marineparents.com included in article)


By Elizabeth York
Odessa American

The Salcidos
Odessans Juan and Maria Salcido are preparing to spend Christmas without their youngest son, Juan Jr.
Juan Jr. is a Marine stationed with the Delta Company in Iraq. At 20, he has been in the U.S. Marine Corps for about two years.
Maria Salcido said her fifth child has been in both Iraq and Kuwait since August. Salcido said this will be the family’s first Christmas with her son away.
The Salcidos will spend Christmas in Odessa with two of their five children.
“I haven’t even had the Christmas spirit (this year),” Salcido said. “We have to try to keep going—life goes on, but we’re constantly thinking about him,” Salcido said.
Juan Jr. has called often to check on his father who recently had open-heart surgery, Salcido said.
“He lets us know that he reminisces on old times just to keep going,” Salcido said.
Salcido said she depends on her faith in God and pleasant memories of her son to get through the pain of separation.
“We just pray a lot together,” Salcido said. “I do have some tears, of course.”
Salcido said Juan Jr. told her he is serving in the Middle East to help others who cannot help themselves.
“He is proud to be an American. He is proud to be a Marine,” Salcido said. “We’re hoping for the best that he’ll come home soon and safely.”

The Cobbs
Midlanders Andrew and Robyn Cobb will miss their eldest son, Matthew, this Christmas.
It is the family’s second Christmas with Matthew away. In 2004, Matthew was in the Marines boot camp in San Diego. He is currently in a weapons company in Iraq.
The Cobbs will celebrate Christmas with their other children, Brandon and Andra, in Midland and in the hill country.
Andrew Cobb said the family’s joy will be incomplete without Matthew.
“A part of your family is missing,” Cobb said. “You can celebrate, but you can’t celebrate completely.”
Cobb said the family sent Matthew a gift package with items like DVDs, breakfast foods and a battery-operated razor. The family is also planning to send food supplies like canned chicken and cheese to Matthew’s 3/1 company for a “Super Bowl weapons taco night.”
While the Cobbs are supporting their son, they find support through relationships with other military families. Andrew Cobb said he especially appreciates the Website marineparents.com, where he can post messages and hear from other parents.
Cobb said the family continues to pray for Matthew.
“For those young men to give and sacrifice, I just can’t tell you how proud I am,” Cobb said.

The Hansons
Phyllis Hanson of Midland is also preparing to spend her second consecutive Christmas without her eldest son, Matt.
Matt, 24, is stationed in Camp Lejeune, N.C. He joined the Marines about four years ago and spent Christmas 2004 in Iraq.
Hanson said she expected her son to return home this year. Instead, he must stay in North Carolina where he is training with an artillery battery, Hanson said.
“When he called and said he probably wasn’t going to get to come home for Christmas, I was disappointed,” Hanson said. “And I think he was more disappointed.”
Hanson will spend Christmas in Midland with her husband, Steve, and youngest son, Peter.
In February, Matt will come home for good. After not seeing her son for more than a year, Hanson said that she looks forward to their reunion.
“I’m ready to have him home,” she said.

The Garcias
Jose L. Garcia of Midland is a sergeant in the Marines. Garcia left for western Iraq in September of 2004 and spent seven-and-a-half months away from his wife, Hope, and children Joseph, 11, Brianna, 7, and Marissa, 4.
Jose understands what it is like to be away from loved ones at Christmastime.
“It was pretty tough, because it was my first time to be away for the holidays,” Jose said of Christmas 2004.
Jose said he could not even spend a full day observing the holiday.
“You can’t pause and take a whole day or a week off,” Jose said.
The Marines received a Christmas meal and many people sent them cards, packages and gifts, Jose said. The best Christmas present for Jose, however, was knowing how proud his family was.
“(Hope) knew it was what I had to do,” Jose said. “I would talk to her on a regular basis through phone and e-mail. The family was very supportive.”
Hope Garcia said spending Christmas without her husband was extremely difficult.
“Not just Christmas, but every day was hard,” Hope said. “Especially because we have kids. It’s hard to make them understand.”
The Garcias will spend this Christmas with family in Abilene and Anson, Hope said. Her family is more complete with Jose home, she said.
“We’re very happy to have him home,” Hope said.

Local Marine Reserve Units Being Deployed To Iraq

1/25 A Co

55 reserve marines based in Topsham will soon begin training for a tour in Iraq, after being called to active duty


The marines from Company A, 1st Battalion, 25th Marines are now preparing for a yearlong activation.

Next Tuesday, they will leave for three months of combat and counter-insurgency training in California. They will then serve about seven months in Iraq.

December 27, 2005

Waterloo Marine Reserve unit OK in Iraq

WATERLOO --- The Cedar Valley has received a Christmas card from a member of Waterloo's Marine Reserve C Battery unit in Iraq.


By PAT KINNEY, Courier Business Editor

"I can tell you we are all well on this wonderful Christmas Day," Marine Reserve Staff Sgt. Arthur Roeding wrote in a e-mail to The Courier.

He reports the unit had a "Chem-light, instead of candlelight, vigil" at a Christmas Eve service, "which made us feel the absence of all our family and friends." A Chem-light is a stick with a chemical in it that glows when broken in two.

"We are all very homesick and are counting the days until we come home," Roeding wrote. The unit, Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 14th Marines, was called to active duty in June and deployed to Iraq this fall after training in California. They have been "in country" about 90 days.

"We are all very grateful for all the support we have received in regard to care packages that we have received from many support groups and churches around the state," Roeding wrote. One of those organizations, Iowa's Bravest, a group of John Deere workers and others based in Waterloo, sent out more than 450 package to the C Battery and various other troops.

"Glad to hear that you all will be having a white Christmas," Roeding wrote. "We are having fall-like weather here at the current time, mid-50s during the day and 30s at night. No snow yet, but the wet season is upon us as we all have had a few wet days here in Fallujah.

"As you may have seen on the news, we got a surprise visit from Secretary of Defense (Donald) Rumsfeld a couple days ago," Roeding continued. "It was very motivating to see him and listen to him tell us about the gains we have made here, that will help reduce troops from being deployed to Iraq. That is our mission here, to improve the Iraq army and life of all the Iraqi people, so they may live a better life and support and defend their own country.

"Our first 90 days have been safe for all our Marines from Waterloo, and we continue to support our commander in chief (President Bush) for being here," Roeding wrote. "Our mission of (being) provisional MPs (military police) to this point has been very successful as we look forward to more safe days ahead."

Roeding sent his e-mail in response to an inquiry by The Courier.

The Courier contacted Roeding after he sent a "soundoff" response to a current Courier online poll. The poll asked readers how they would spend New Year's Eve.

Staff Sgt Roeding wrote simply, "I will be spending New Year's Eve defending our country in Iraq."

Roeding is a 1987 graduate of East High School. He has been in the Marine Reserve 17 years and is a veteran of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. He was part of the Waterloo Marine detachment, then Delta Battery, that served during that war.

Contact Pat Kinney at (319) 291-1484 or [email protected]

December 26, 2005

Local Marines called to duty

New England’s only Marine Reserve combat force — a storied grunt battalion manned by local cops, jakes, tradesmen and professionals — has been called to the fight in Iraq.

1/25 A Co


By Thomas Caywood
Monday, December 26, 2005 - Updated: 10:27 AM EST

“I’m looking forward to it. It’s what I’ve trained for. I’m a Marine,” said Cpl. Danny Foley, 24, of West Roxbury.

The young infantryman is one of more than 1,000 Marine reservists assigned to units in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Connecticut who gathered last week at the Devens Reserve Forces Training Area in Ayer to load their weapons and gear. Together, they make up the 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment.

After a few days’ leave over the holidays, the battalion ships out to a desert training base in California for three months before heading to Iraq. The local Marines have orders to team up with Iraqi security forces in Al Anbar Province, a notorious hot spot where hundreds of Marines and soldiers have been killed.

But these proud leathernecks say they’re eager to do their duty.

“If you make an oath, you have to honor it,” said Staff Sgt. Kenneth Seney, 31, of New Bedford.

One evening after the deployment orders came down, with their two kids tucked in bed, Seney and his wife talked about what would happen to the family if he were killed. The veteran Marine fired off a few jokes to lighten the conversation.

“I told her with two life insurance policies, she could buy a new daddy for the kids,” quipped Seney, a supervisor with Belmont Springs in civilian life.

Sgt. Jason Fragoso, 24, of Roxbury will have to put off law school for a year to answer Uncle Sam’s call.

“I’m just going with a positive attitude, hoping to do the best I can for those people and for this country,” Fragoso said.

Sgt. Jamil Brown, 32, of Dorchester had finished his hitch in the Marines and was getting on with his civilian career at U.S. Airways. The Corps asked him to re-up for the Iraq deployment.

“I feel I’m needed, so I’ll go,” the soft-spoken warrior explained.

Brown, who has nine brothers and a sister, will lead a squad of Marines specializing in electronic communications. Their safety falls on his broad shoulders.

December 25, 2005

Media relations part of Marines' training for Iraq

DEVENS, Mass. Marine reservists from Nashua (New Hampshire) were among the Iraq-bound troops getting media relations training recently in Devens, Massachusetts. 1/25


This spring, members of the First Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment will be working in Iraq. Before they go, First Lieutenant Nathan Braden says he wants them to understand how soldiers' words and actions in news reports reverberate around the world. He says it's important for the public to get honest accounts of what's happening in Iraq, whether the news is good or bad.

Braden's media seminar at Devens Reserve Force Training Area includes these tips: be welcoming to reporters, tell the truth, and refrain from expressing personal opinions about Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

December 24, 2005

Merry farewell

• Headed to Iraq: Joliet Christmas party brings together Marines and their families



By Catherine Ann Velasco

JOLIET — Twelve-year-old Allan Halverson was the first one to hop onto Santa's lap Friday to tell him what he wanted for Christmas during Operation Desert Sleigh, a farewell/Christmas party for local Marines.

Allan, a sixth-grader at Drauden Point Middle School who likes hip hop music, told Santa he wanted a new stereo for Christmas. But after showing his mom his new remote control Hummer he received from an elf, he had more serious wishes on his mind.

His stepdad, Staff Sgt. Daniel Carter, 32, a U.S. Marine, will be leaving in early January for training in California before going to Iraq. He is expected to return in November 2006.

Allan said he's worried about all the helicopter accidents in the Middle East that he sees on the TV news.

"I hope he doesn't get in one of those accidents, and I hope he comes home safely," Allan said.

"He will," his mom, Kiki Carter, said before Allan went back to get a toy for his brother, Alex, 9, a fourth-grader at Charles Reed Elementary School, who was home sick.

Kiki appreciated the party, which brought the whole battalion together before the Marines left for duty.

"We get to know the wives and their families so we can support each other," she said. "You see the other families, and it gives us strength to be strong until they come back."

Kiki and Daniel moved to Plainfield about 18 months ago when Daniel, an active Marine, was transferred from Hawaii to Joliet to help the battalion, stationed at 2711 McDonough St., train for Iraq.

As a seasoned Marine, he will be going to Iraq with the battalion, which consists of about 150 Marines and sailors from Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.

In Iraq, they will serve as prison guards, work side by side with Iraqi soldiers, and help transport personnel and equipment, said 1st Sgt. Bob Campbell, family readiness officer.

Kiki said Daniel has been on active duty in the past, but this time it's different because they don't live on a military base. She doesn't have that immediate support from other wives in the same situation.

"A neighbor came up to me and asked me, 'Are you going to be OK?' ... I have to be strong. When I got married to my husband, it was one of the commitments," said Kiki, who has been married to Daniel for six years.

Big supporter

James Gomez, organizer of Operation Desert Sleigh, put the party together at VFW Cantigny Post 367 in Joliet to show battalion members that the community supports them.
"It is imperative that they leave knowing that we, as a community, are here for them and their families," he said.

Gomez, 41, of Rockdale, a former U.S. Marine for 18 years and a former recruiter, put together the party with the help of VFW Cantigny Post 367, the Marine Corps League and the Leathernecks Motorcycle Club.

"I can't go with these guys. I wanted to let them know the community supports them," he said, adding that he relied on numerous sponsors to pay for the party.

Girls in their Christmas dresses held onto roses that were given to their moms while boys played with their new cars.

Nicholas Pastrana, 9, a fourth-grader at Richland School, smashed the box to his remote-controlled Hummer so he could use it as a ramp.

Nicholas and his friend, Ricky Ontiveros, 9, of Tinley Park, had fun making the Hummer ride up the ramp and onto the table.

Nicholas' dad, Sgt. Miguel Pastrana, watched as he balanced his son Alexander, almost 2, on his lap with one hand while eating with another.

Miguel, 29, of Crest Hill, was in Iraq with another squadron for seven months, returning in February, and now will leave again next month.

"He was gone for Christmas last year. He called on Christmas Day, and that was the best," said Miguel's wife, Kathleen Pastrana.

While he will be home for Christmas this year, he will miss a very important event — the birth of their third child, a girl, due May 13.

"It will be the first time he has missed the birth," she said, adding she understands why he has to go back. "He feels he needs to finish what he started."


December 23, 2005

Marine Reserve unit mobilized for Iraq duty

A Marine Corps Reserve unit here has been mobilized for service in Iraq.



Hotel Battery of the 1st Battalion, 14th Marines, will leave for pre-deployment training in California on Jan. 2.

Because the 142-member unit is going to Iraq, "the training's been very intensive," Capt. Michael Kamin, the battery's executive officer, said yesterday.

"We'll actually be in the country about seven months," he said. In total, "it'll be approximately a 12-month mobilization" for Hotel Battery's Marines and sailors.

Normally organized as a 155mm self-propelled howitzer unit, the battery will be serving as military police in Iraq, Kamin said. The reservists have not been told where in the Middle Eastern country they will be stationed.

The Marines from the Chesterfield County-based outfit have spent the last year preparing for their new mission, said Kamin, who lives in Fredericksburg.

They will go first to Camp Pendleton, Calif., and then to the Marine Corps combat training center at Twentynine Palms, Calif., he said, before heading overseas.

In 1990, Hotel Battery was ordered to active duty in Operation Desert Shield after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

During the first Persian Gulf war, the battery's Marines battled two Iraqi multiple-rocket launchers with howitzers and automatic weapons, destroying both.

A member of the unit, Lance Cpl. Troy Lorenzo Gregory, was the first Richmond-area casualty of the Gulf War.

Contact staff writer Peter Bacqué at [email protected] or (804) 649-6813.

December 20, 2005

Fatally Exposed-- A Mission That Ended in Inferno for 3 Women

The 120-degree June heat and rising tension in Falluja had already frayed the nerves of the Marine women when the cargo truck they were riding in pulled onto the main road and turned toward camp. It was only a 15-minute trip. But the blast took mere seconds to incinerate lives.


December 20, 2005

The suicide bomber had waited for his victims alongside the road, and then rammed his car into the truck with deadly precision. The ambush ignited an inferno - scorching flesh, scattering bodies and mixing smoke, blood and dirt.

Several of the women lost the skin on their hands. One's goggles fused to her cheeks. After rolling 50 yards on fire, the truck flipped and spilled the women onto the road, where enemy snipers opened fire. With their own ammunition bursting in the heat, the women crawled and pulled one another from the burning wreckage.

They were parched and dazed, and as one marine pleaded for water, another asked over and over, "How do I look?"

"It was like somebody had ripped her face off," said Cpl. Sally J. Saalman, the leader of the group, who was waving her own hands to cool them. "I told her, 'It'll be all right, babe.' "

But it wasn't. Three women died: a 20-year-old who had enlisted to support her mother, a 21-year-old former cheerleader and a 43-year-old single mother on her second tour in Iraq.

Three male marines, including two who provided security for the cargo truck, were also killed. Corporal Saalman and six other women were flown to a burn center in Texas, where even morphine, she said, could not kill the pain of having their charred skin scrubbed off.

The ambush in Falluja made June 23 one of the worst days in the history of women in the American military. Yet it faded into the running narrative of Iraq, tallied up as another tragic but unavoidable consequence of war.

At the White House the next day, President Bush spoke generally of the insurgents' resolve: "It's hard to stop suicide bombers." Answering questions over the next week about the attack, the Defense Department issued assurances that the women had been adequately protected.

But an examination of the attack, pieced together through interviews in Falluja and the United States, military documents and photographs taken by marines at the time, shows the opposite. The military sent the women off that day with substandard armor, inadequate security and faulty tactics, and the predictability of their daily commute through one of the most volatile parts of Iraq made them an open target.

The problems mounted in a lethal chain.

The cargo truck the women rode in was a relic, never intended for warfare with insurgents, and had mere improvised metal shielding that only rose to their shoulders. The flames from the blast simply shot over the top.

Their convoy was protected by just two Humvees with mounted machine guns. A third was supposed to be there but had been diverted that day by a security team that strained to juggle competing demands. But the Falluja area was so dangerous that the local Marine commander typically had four Humvees when he ventured out.

Perhaps most significantly, the security team let the suicide bomber pull to the side of the road as the convoy passed, rather than ordering him to move ahead to keep him away from the women. Marines involved in the operation called the tactic, commonly used, a serious error.

"The females should never have been transported like that," said Sgt. Carozio V. Bass, one of the marines who escorted the convoy. "We didn't have enough people or proper vehicles."

If anything, the women needed more protection because of their work in Falluja and the tension it was igniting, some marines said. They had been searching Iraqi women for weapons and other contraband and felt certain the task was infuriating insurgents. Even so, the military had the women follow a predictable routine: traveling to and from their camp each day at roughly the same time and on the same route through the city.

Some marines questioned whether they should have been traveling at all. Male marines also worked at the checkpoints, but did not have to face the dangers of the daily commute. They slept at a Marine outpost in downtown Falluja, but Marine Corps rules barred the women from sharing that space with the men.

In the weeks that followed, the wounded women said, they were told not to speak with reporters. Two sergeants said they were asked to chronicle the attack in written statements, but the Marine Corps said it decided against investigating the episode.

Marine officials defended the security measures that had been taken in transporting the women and armoring the vehicles. They said that suicide bombings were still infrequent in Falluja at that time.

"That convoy was as protected as many of the convoys that were run before," said Col. Charles M. Gurganus, who commanded Marine operations in Falluja at the time. "There is absolutely no way that you can prepare for every eventuality."

The day after the attack, however, the Marines in Falluja increased to five the number of Humvees in the convoy transporting a new crew of women, added more weapons for protection and stopped letting cars wait on the side of the road for the convoy to pass. Eventually, they switched to armored Humvees instead of cargo trucks.

The marines killed and wounded that day were part of the heavy toll that the Marine Corps has borne since it returned to Iraq in early 2004 to replace exhausted Army units.

Marine officials point out that they have inherited some of the most violent turf in Iraq. But some marines said that their trucks, training and personnel were more suitable for their traditional mission of establishing beachheads than for combating a sustained insurgency. Since returning to Iraq, the Marines have had one-sixth of the military personnel in the war, but have accounted for one-third of the deaths, Pentagon records show.

And the deadly encounters, like the one in Falluja, take a toll far beyond the numbers.

"I think about it every day, 24 hours a day," said Lance Cpl. Erin Liberty, whose seatmate on the truck that day in June was so badly burned that her body was identifiable only by dog tags. "You're never happy, you're never sad, you're never mad. You're just pretty much numb to everything."

A Sense of Dread

For four months this year, about 20 women called Camp Falluja home. They made up a sort of platoon, called the Female Search Force, working out of the Marine camp, an asphalt and gravel base that lies a few miles outside Falluja.

The Marines prohibit women from participating in direct ground combat. So some of the women had performed duties in the mailroom, others in the radio shack. In February, though, the military formed the group to help search Iraqi women at the city's checkpoints.

But if screening Iraqis did not constitute a combat job, the daily commute between camp and city would amount to one.

Each day at 5 a.m., the marines rose from their canvas cots and were taken by truck to downtown Falluja. They often did not return until 11 p.m. On good days, the women joshed with the Iraqis, their huge goggles bringing either squeals or tears from children. But many older Iraqi women objected to being searched.

"One lady came through and had a bunch of ID's on her," Cpl. Christina J. Humphrey, of Chico, Calif., said in a phone interview from a base in Okinawa, Japan. "I said I have to confiscate them and she grabbed my flak jacket."

By June, the checkpoints were sweltering and, the women said, a sense of dread was setting in.

Eighteen members of the military had been killed in the Falluja area and nearby Ramadi that month. Marine and Iraqi forces were encountering explosives nearly every day. In the week before the women were attacked, an Iraqi general survived a suicide car bombing in Falluja.

Cpl. Ramona M. Valdez, 20, who worked at the Statue of Liberty before joining the Marines in early 2002 to support her mother in the Bronx, regularly asked to be relieved from the checkpoint duty. The job even spooked Petty Officer First Class Regina R. Clark, a 43-year-old Navy Seabee from Centralia, Wash., who was in Iraq for the second time. She had taken her previous tour in such stride that she had even shipped a stray dog back home.

This time was different. "She had bad feelings all around," said Kelly Pennington, a friend in Washington. "Her whole attitude went from getting the dog home to getting herself home safe."

Making sure the women's commute was safe was the responsibility of the men who provided convoy security. "That was their job," said Corporal Saalman, the group's leader, of Branchville, Ind.

Two weeks before the attack, the mood changed for the worse. The Iraqi women became withdrawn, and the marines began to suspect trouble.

"It was like a cold feeling," Corporal Saalman said. "Everything was slow moving."

Shorthanded Forces

The skies in Falluja on June 23 were beginning to clear from a sandstorm when Sergeant Bass, the convoy member, prepared to help take the women back to camp.

His unit provided security for the short trip, dubbed the Milk Run, but members had mixed feelings when they got the job a few weeks earlier. The marines were already escorting five or more convoys of supplies and military personnel in and around Falluja each day and Sergeant Bass and other team members said they struggled to provide each convoy with full protection.

The problem was particularly acute when it came to Humvees.

Sgt. James P. Sherlock, whose Humvee would have been in the convoy that day behind the women's truck, said he had been pulled off to patrol a nearby highway that was seen as more of a threat.

"It was a manpower issue," Sergeant Bass said.

He said his section of the security unit had roughly 10 Humvees at its disposal. But each vehicle required three to five marines, and by June their numbers had dropped to about 30, which stretched them thin.

Sergeant Bass said no one raised any objection to using just two Humvees that day because, while all of Falluja was dangerous, there had been no recent attacks on that stretch of road. Moreover, he said, the Marines were trying to lower their profile.

"We were trying to give the people some normalcy," he said. "We didn't want to appear to them as being bullies."

Colonel Gurganus, the former commander in Falluja, said that while he usually had an escort of four Humvees, that number rose to as many as eight when other officers or dignitaries joined him.

There were no hard and fast rules on how many Humvees to use, nor were there any on how to position the women in the convoy. Often, the women would mix with the men in a second cargo truck, which Sergeant Bass said he preferred because it made them a less enticing target.

The Marine compound in downtown Falluja, where the convoy was staged, is easily observable from nearby buildings, and Sergeant Bass said he was convinced that the insurgents did their homework.

"They planned this maybe for months," he said. "Scoped our convoy out and saw typically where do the females sit. Maybe they had someone watching and they called on the cellphone."

That evening, however, Corporal Saalman said she was focused on a routine but necessary chore: calling the roll. So she had all the women climb onto the bed of one truck.

'Flames Everywhere'

Falluja should have been bustling on a Thursday evening in summertime. But the streets had been deserted for much of the day, which the American military had learned could be a signal that residents had been tipped off to an impending attack.

"I even told my buddy, 'Something bad is going to happen today,' " Corporal Saalman said.

At 7:20 p.m., there was only one car on the road when the women's convoy left. The marines in the lead Humvee waved the driver of a car to the side of the road and later said that his demeanor had raised no alarms.

The driver waited, they said, for the lead Humvee to pass and then hit the women's cargo truck, striking just behind the cab on the passenger's side.

The blast instantly killed the truck's assistant driver, Cpl. Chad W. Powell, an outdoorsman and third-generation marine from West Monroe, La., and Pfc. Veashna Muy, 20, of Los Angeles, who was in charge of operating a gun atop the cargo truck.

In the back, two of the women, Petty Officer Clark and Corporal Valdez, died within moments, according to casualty reports. Lance Cpl. Holly A. Charette, 21, of Cranston, R.I., the former cheerleader, died three hours later after receiving treatment at Camp Falluja, the records show.

"It was orange and black and red smoke, flames everywhere, coming at us," Corporal Liberty recalled. "I didn't see my childhood, or a big white light. I just closed my eyes and I'm like, 'Wow, I'm going to die.' "

The marines in the rear Humvee heard the explosion, but were so far back they did not know what had been hit. Sergeant Bass took a photograph that shows a huge plume of smoke some 200 yards away.

Then came the radio call from the marines who were leading the convoy: "We've been hit! We've been hit! We've taken mass casualties. Get the doc up here."

Sergeants Bass and Timothy Lawson ran, with the medic, just as snipers across the road opened fire. When they arrived they found Corporal Liberty trying to hoist a woman away from the burning truck.

"I tried to pick her up by the back of her flak jacket," said Corporal Liberty, who is now being treated in North Carolina for an injured neck, shrapnel in one leg and combat stress. "She was a big healthy woman with lots of muscle, and she was down in the dirt and blood and I said, 'Come on girl, we've got to go.' "

Another marine grabbed Corporal Liberty and told her to let go. The woman was already dead.

The women took shelter at a storefront about 100 yards off the road and the few men who were present had to run back and forth carrying the wounded. In all, 13 women and men were injured.

Against orders, two men from the second cargo truck jumped out and raced ahead to help, including Cpl. Carlos Pineda, a 23-year-old from Los Angeles. When smoke from the flaming truck cleared for a moment, a bullet found the gap in the armor on his side and sliced through his lungs.

His widow, Ana, said she later received a letter he wrote the day before, saying he had narrowly escaped harm in another attack. "He said, 'I feel my luck here is just running out.' "

When another Marine unit arrived on the scene, the dead and wounded were loaded onto the second cargo truck and the convoy pressed on to camp. One of the two Humvees then broke down, and one of the injured women had to be moved to the cargo truck.

In the back, Corporal Saalman started to sing. First, "America the Beautiful," then "Amazing Grace."

"I have this thing ever since I was little, if I get scared or I'm worried or someone else is worried, I sing," said Corporal Saalman, whose nickname is Songbird.

It calmed her platoon, the marines said, and between verses she consoled the woman whose scorched head lay in her lap.

Wrong Armor for the Mission

Long before that June day, Marine commanders were wrestling with a vexing problem: their troops lacked the right protection for a war exacting its toll in roadside bombs.

To carry out its traditional mission of leading invasions, the Marines have lightly armored amphibious vehicles to get them onto dry ground and trucks to ferry them and their supplies on the back lines. The cargo truck that carried the security checkpoint workers through Falluja each day was conceived of in the early 1990's without armor for noncombat supply lines.

"We equip for what we fight and the truck was not designed to be an armored vehicle," said Maj. Gen. William D. Catto, the leader of the unit responsible for equipping marines, in an interview at his headquarters in Quantico, Va.

In November of 2003, as the Pentagon was ordering the Marines to relieve Army troops in Iraq, General Catto's team told Oshkosh Truck, which makes the cargo truck, to help create an integrated armor system, according to records released to The New York Times.

"During the fall of 2003, we noted the alarming increase in the number of Army vehicles under attack," Col. Susan Schuler, a Marine procurement official, said in an e-mail message. "Therefore, anticipating that Marine units would return to Iraq in early 2004, we had to address vehicle hardening of all our fleets."

General Catto said the plan was ideal but was taking too long. In the meantime, they began buying ceramic panels used on military aircraft, but could not get enough from the single company that was making them.

So they obtained metal plates, which were neither as strong nor as tall as the factory armor that was being developed.

The women's truck that was hit in Falluja had been fitted with the plates and General Catto said he had been told that they repelled the blast. But the makeshift shielding, just 36½ inches tall, left the women's necks and heads exposed.

A year earlier, when four marines were killed in Ramadi after a roadside bomb hit their Humvee, their company leader told The Times that a few inches more of steel would have saved their lives.

A contract to produce the new factory armor for the cargo trucks, which is double-walled and 46 inches high, was awarded in September 2004, but the Marine Corps said it could find only one company to make it: Plasan Sasa, based in Kibbutz Sasa, Israel.

With nearly 1,000 cargo trucks in Iraq, General Catto said he would like to have multiple companies making the armor, but Plasan Sasa holds the rights to the design. However, Plasan's chief executive, Dan Ziv, said his firm had more than kept pace with the Marines' schedule. "We are not the bottleneck at the moment," he said.

The armor kits take 300 hours of work to install, and General Catto said that with the marines so pressed by the war, they could not easily give up their trucks to have the work done. The first trucks retrofitted with factory armor began showing up in the field on May 31, the Marines said, and as of last week half of its cargo trucks had this armor installed. That leaves about 460 trucks in Iraq with the same protection as the truck that carried the Marine women in Falluja.

Despite the June 23 ambush, Corporal Saalman said she was willing to return to Iraq.

Sergeant Bass, who has returned to a marketing job in San Diego, said he had turned the events over and over in his head. "I don't want to blame everything on the Marine Corps," he said. "Leaders make mistakes and aren't perfect."

Then he added: "We were undermanned and overtaxed, and that is not out of the norm for the Marine Corps. But in a wartime situation it really hindered our capability and sometimes our willingness to do things."

December 18, 2005

Combat Center units return from Western Pacific

Roughing a cold desert night, friends and family members of the Marines and Sailors of India Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, excitedly awaited the arrival of their loved ones Dec. 7 at Victory Field.


Cpl. Evan M. Eagan

Combat Correspondent

Three nights later, it was a familiar scene as the Marines and Sailors of Bravo Company, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, also returned to the Combat Center, greeted by a group of ecstatic family and friends.

Both units returned recently after separate training deployments in the Western Pacific theater.

India Battery headed for Okinawa where they were officially attached to Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., and deployed with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) during the first week of May, according to 1st Lt. Clarence E. Loomis, executive officer, India, 3/11.

During their deployment, the Marines and Sailors of India remained busy with various training operations in two countries.

During the last week of June and the first two weeks of July, the battery conducted combined arms training with other units of the BLT at Camp Fuji, Japan, where they shot, successfully and safely, 450 artillery rounds on the East Fuji Maneuver Area.

Later in the summer, the battery participated in a BLT exercise and conducted fire missions in support of operations by line companies. They also conducted riot control operations and a non-combatant evacuation mission, said Loomis.

India served as the non-lethal weapons unit for the BLT and played a role in the 31st MEU receiving its special-operations-capable qualification, and they took part in a MEU exercise designed to demonstrate its capabilities to the Special Operations Training Group.

In October, India embarked on the USS Juneau to take part in an amphibious landing exercise in the Philippines.

After disembarking at Subic Bay, they conducted a 70-mile road march to Ft. Magsaysay in the Luzon area of the Philippines.

"In the Philippines we cross-trained with the Filipino Marines," said Cpl. Domingo Villarreal, a Chicago native, and vehicle operator with 3/11's motor transportation section. "We taught them about the howitzers, and they taught us how to survive in the jungle."

Returning home to a large crowd of family and friends, the Marines were glad to be back at the Combat Center.

"I'm so happy to be back," said Lance Cpl. Charles Burton, 20, radio operator liaison, India, 3/11 and California native. "I'm going home to Moreno Valley tonight with my buddy. I'm going to hang out with my family and handle some business. I'm just so excited to be home."

Bravo, 3rd LAR, returned Saturday night after spending more than seven months deployed to Japan.

The training Bravo conducted ranged from sending their scouts to instruct Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5 on infantry tactics and small unit tactics for their future deployment to Iraq, to firing all organic weapon systems in their arsenal.

"This was a normal UDP rotation," explained 1st Lt. George Bartimus, executive officer, Bravo, 3rd LAR, referring to the unit deployment program. "We participated in some CAB [combat assault battalion] exercises and live fire exercises at Camp Fuji. No real live fire training can compare to the training here at Twentynine Palms, but we made the most of it."

The Marines also had the opportunity to visit a historic World War II battleground on Iwo Jima where they received a company period of military education on the battle that took place there more than 60 years ago.

"Iwo Jima was really neat," said Lance Cpl. Eric Cawthon, an Amarillo, Texas, native, and light-armored vehicle crewman, Bravo, 3rd LAR. "We got to see where John Basilone died, invasion beach, the battalion cemetery, and then we got to go up Mt. Suribachi where they raised the flag. It humbles you."

Upon returning, the Marines were all smiles as they reunited with their loved ones and looked forward to going on leave.

"It feels great to be back," said Lance Cpl. Robert Goldschmidt, a Hutchinson, Minn., native, and LAV mechanic, Bravo, 3rd LAR. "I'm looking forward to going home on leave."

After their leave ends the company will continue to train here and get ready for another possible deployment to Japan next year.

December 14, 2005

Oconomowoc, Wis., native sweeps for IEDs in Haqlaniyah

HAQLANIYAH, Iraq (Dec. 14, 2005) -- In the town of Haqlaniyah, the “Raiders” of Company I, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, continue to patrol the streets every day, keeping the area safe from the ongoing insurgency.


Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20051214674
Story by Cpl. Adam C. Schnell

HAQLANIYAH, Iraq (Dec. 14, 2005) -- In the town of Haqlaniyah, the “Raiders” of Company I, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, continue to patrol the streets every day, keeping the area safe from the ongoing insurgency.

On many of these patrols is Oconomowoc, Wis., native, Lance Cpl. Darin J. Wittnebel who has a very important duty that helps him keep the “Raider Nation” safe from improvised explosive devices and find abandoned weapons caches. He carries the PSS-12 metal detector on every patrol he goes on.

“The detector can pick up lots of stuff underneath the ground or under piles of garbage,” said the 20-year-old rifleman for the company. “We bring it with us because you never know when you will find a weapons cache or IED.”

Combat engineers attached to the battalion usually use the detector when on patrols. But with the lack of engineers and the number of patrols going in many different villages throughout the battalion’s area of operations, the idea came to send some riflemen to a class taught by the engineers.

“When we were back at the dam, my squad leader picked me to go to the class to be taught how to use the detector,” said Wittnebel, a 2003 Oconomowoc High School graduate.

The training has paid off.

Recently, Wittnebel and other Marines in his squad were out on a routine patrol providing security and talking with local people in the area. On their way back to the base, Wittnebel was sweeping the curbs when a loud beep came from the detector signaling the presence of a large metal object.

“I wasn’t sure what it was picking up, but I found out when I moved some trash away from the area and there was a bunch wires attached to a battery assembly,” he said as he smiled. “As soon as I saw that I didn’t waste any time getting away from there. I just couldn’t believe that I found an IED just like that, and it was right outside the base.”

When not using his skills sweeping for IEDs and weapons caches, the former student of Waukesha County Technical College guards the base and is part of the quick reaction force for the company. Wittnebel says he enjoys spending every day working with his squad to keep the area safe.

“The thing I like best about being here is the people I work with,” commented Wittnebel. “Everyone comes from a different part of the world and you really get to know people out here.”

For Marines like Wittnebel, working with the metal detector on almost every patrol is a big help in finding IEDs and weapons caches here. According to 1st Lt. Jared W. Burgess, a platoon commander with the company, there have been numerous IEDs and weapons caches found in the area with the help of the metal detectors.

“It has definitely been a help having the detectors on almost every patrol,” commented Burgess, a Walnut Creek, Calif., native. “It has been especially helpful in the palm groves and open desert so that Marines aren’t just digging around looking for things under ground without knowing if something is there or not.”

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

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Soldiers say media miss Iraq story

'So much of what happens here never makes the nightly news.'


By Anderson Cooper

Wednesday, December 14, 2005 Posted: 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)

BAQUBA, Iraq (CNN) -- We're in Baquba today, about 35 miles north of Baghdad. We hitched a ride this morning on a Blackhawk helicopter after finishing the show, and spent much of the day on patrol with the U.S. military.

I'm usually not all that impressed by machines, but Blackhawks are amazing. The heavy rotors slice the air. The sound is at once crushing and comforting. You take off, fly low, at times skimming treetops.

It's been a long day, and will likely be a long night.

I just finished writing an account of the patrol that will be on our show in a couple of hours. It's now nearly 10 p.m. here, and I still have a couple other pieces to write. We go live at 6 a.m. Iraq time, which is 10 p.m. on the East Coast. So I'm not sure I will be able to sleep tonight.

I can't complain, however. The soldiers I spent the day with work around the clock seven days a week. They can't keep regular shifts because they don't want insurgents to be able to track their routines. (Cooper: 'I had my first gun pointed at me today')

The unit I spent the day with is one month shy of going home. The commander, Capt. Patrick Moffett, was very optimistic about progress in Iraq, and by some accounts Baquba is a real success story. Attacks have dropped 30-40 percent since last year, and the Iraqi police in the city actually are able to conduct some operations on their own.

I'm planning on going out on patrol with Iraqi forces tomorrow, which should be interesting. They don't have armored vehicles, so it's a bit dicey. But I think it's an important story. It's worth seeing them operate for myself.

I'm always incredibly impressed by the U.S. service members I meet here. They are not all as optimistic and supportive of the mission as the captain I spent time with today, but they are all dedicated to their units, devoted to their fellow troops. I think a lot of us in the states forget how difficult it is for the families of these soldiers and marines, airmen and sailors.

They are away for so long. Multiple tours in Iraq are not uncommon.

Every soldier I talked to today said the media hasn't done a good job of telling the full story from Iraq. It's a complaint I've heard before, and certainly understand. I do think television tends to focus on the bombs and the bullets, the most dramatic headlines. So much of what happens here never makes the nightly news.

When today's patrol ended, one of the soldiers said to me, "Sorry it wasn't more exciting for you." I told him I wasn't looking for excitement, and in fact, I was glad the day unfolded as it did.

It reminded me that life in Iraq is never what you expect it to be. The situation here is far more complex and the fight far more nuanced than it is often portrayed.

Marines in Fallujah take back seat for election security

By Andrew Tilghman, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Wednesday, December 14, 2005

After nearly two years of persistent clashes between U.S. forces and insurgents in the Fallujah area, some local Iraqi leaders hope this week’s election can succeed where violence has failed. (2/2)

To continue reading:


Reservist adjusts after coming home

Sorrow and success


NEW ATHENS -- The early-winter chill has been especially hard on Charlie Walker.
A military veteran of more than three decades, Walker is no wimp. It's just that wintry weather is especially jarring when a body has become used to searing heat approaching 140 degrees.
Handling the 100-degree temperature swing is just a sliver of the decompression process for Walker, a New Athens man who just wrapped up a strenuous year serving in Iraq.
Simple activities -- visiting with friends, assembling a Christmas tree -- are about all Walker has in mind for his first few weeks home.
"I don't want to push it," Walker said. "I'm letting my body unwind, slowly."
Stringing together a few good nights' rest is a nice start. In Iraq, there was many a night when Walker could scarcely sleep. The danger, the separation from family, the heat and the near-constant travel made peace of mind a rarity.
In Walker's time abroad, a soldier in one of the units underneath his battalion died. There were numerous mortar attacks on his base, including an instance when two Iraqi civilians who were working there leaked information to nearby insurgents. The two slipped away before the attack -- which resulted in knocked out windows and phone lines -- but were later apprehended.
A member of the 620th combat support battalion out of St. Louis, Walker was stationed in Al Taqaddum, Iraq, a couple hours south of Baghdad. He was responsible for much of the battalion's logistical operations, including dealing with Iraqi and Kuwaiti contractors for supplies.
He estimated he was on the road about 80 percent of the time.
"Time went fast," Walker said. "I was busy."
An accomplishment at the base, though, might have been the crowning achievement for Walker, a master sergeant. His battalion constructed a large recreation center for the troops, featuring a movie theater, indoor basketball court and room for ceremonies.
Walker raved about the camaraderie with his battalion-mates, but dealing with Iraqi civilians -- be it laborers at the base, or when cleaning up towns -- was prickly. Most Iraqis were friendly, grateful and inquisitive. It was the inquisitive part that made soldiers tense up.
"There's always that one in the group ... you don't know who gets by," Walker said. "It's scary."
That did not make it any less gut-wrenching, though, to see young children beg for food and attention.
"Master Sgt. Grandpa Walker"
Walker often found it difficult to keep his thoughts straight amid the bustle. He sent his wife, Cindy, multiple cards for their 35th anniversary in October, unsure if he'd remembered to send the previous ones.
Physically, too, the burden was immense. Walker has stayed in shape, but the sweltering sun and occasional 80 pounds of extra equipment he had to wear were a grueling mix.
"You can't be outside long," Walker said. "It played on me a little bit. It wears you out quick."
At age 54, Walker was the oldest member of his battalion. That earned him the unofficial rank of "Master Sgt. Grandpa Walker."
The nickname held added significance, as two of his four grandchildren were born while he was in Iraq. He has yet to meet them, but will make that his newest mission in the weeks ahead.
After three years of active duty service, Walker has been a reservist since 1978. Iraq was not his first overseas stint. He spent about two years in Bosnia in the late 1990s, organizing flights and cargo shipments in the aftermath of the Balkan conflict.
Cindy Walker said her husband has relished his military involvement, but agreed to remain a reservist because of her opposition to his becoming a full-time military man. He maintains a civilian job at Freeburg electrical company Hubbell-Wiegmann, which he plans to return to in February.
Jason Walker, the middle child of the couple's three offspring, also is serving in Iraq, in an even more dangerous capacity, Walker said. Walker was able to meet up with his son overseas while Jason Walker was on leave, one of the high points of his year.
Triumphant return
Walker arrived back in St. Louis on Nov. 29, along with two medals for his service. He is eligible for retirement from the Army on July 1 and he plans to jump at it. That's partially so Cindy does not have to repeat the last year again.
"I feel like I accomplished a lot in my 31 years," Walker said. "I've done my job, and I really don't think they should ask me for any more."
Jay Schwab can be reached at [email protected] or 475-2166.

December 13, 2005

Marines take care of their own to the end

Michael L. Deaton died Thursday in a nursing home.
He was only 58, but his once strapping 6-foot-1-inch body was a diminished wreck. He was a diabetic. He was a double amputee. He had a bad heart and, just to make life more challenging, he had lung disease.


Despite all that misery, or maybe because of it, Deaton smoked two packs a day and strenuously refused any request to cut back. When one nursing home tried to limit his habit to two smokes every 24 hours, he moved out.
During his lifetime, Deaton sold cars and men's clothing and worked for the state as a veterans' employment counselor. He was a husband three times.
But above all, he was a Marine.
He signed up in 1966 after graduating from Broad Ripple High School. He served 10 years, including a 13-month tour in Vietnam. He was a platoon sergeant and a life member of the Marine Corps League.
When his Marine buddies got word that he had died unexpectedly and that no military send-off was in the works, they got into gear.
"Mike Deaton has died," Donald F. Myers e-mailed Friday to his network. "There is a SNAFU about Mike's status in so far as will the VA pay the $2,000 burial?"
Myers, 71, also a Vietnam vet, was determined to raise the fee if the Department of Veterans Affairs didn't come through. "I know it's Christmastime, but Mike is a Marine, and Marines take care of their own," he said.
Deaton died without money or contact with relatives. The funeral home's position was that it would have to cremate his remains unless someone paid the $2,000 funeral fee.
Cremation wasn't acceptable to Myers, retired Lt. Col. Dan Switzer and Commandant Russ Eaglin of the Marine Corps League of Indianapolis.
They wanted Deaton to rest in the National Cemetery in Marion. They wanted him in a casket with a headstone. They wanted the honor of a service.
After all, Deaton gave 10 years of his life to his country. Or maybe he gave his whole life.
Like many other Vietnam vets, he was exposed to Agent Orange. The VA, as a result of action by Congress in the 1990s, pays disability to veterans with diseases linked to the toxic herbicide. Diabetes is among them.
Deaton was 100 percent disabled. Complications from diabetes cost him his legs in 1993. The amputations, at his knees, affected his heart.
You might think Deaton was bitter. "He died in Vietnam; he just didn't know it," is said of veterans whose lives unraveled.
That wasn't Deaton, his friends said. He was happy-go-lucky. He loved to eat and drink and smoke. He was active in the league until his disabilities made it impossible. He wanted to live.
Myers explains the ethos of the Marine Corps, that perhaps applied to Deaton. "In the face of adversity, we seem to shine brighter."
Knowing that, you won't be surprised to hear that the Marines took care of business. Myers made some phone calls, and the VA will pay for Deaton's funeral at 1 p.m. Wednesday in Marion National Cemetery.
The Marines will be there to bury their own.

Ruth Holladay's column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. You can reach her at (317) 444-6405 or via e-mail at [email protected]

Copyright 2005 IndyStar.com. All rights reserved

War's trauma wears on the children left behind

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — A squirming audience of pigtails and freckles strains to watch puppets wearing goofy expressions at Bill Hefner Elementary School.


By Gregg Zoroya, USA TODAY

At any other school, this might be a holiday pageant or a Thanksgiving play. But not here, in the shadow of the Army's Fort Bragg, during a war that keeps whisking away the moms and the dads of these kids for what seems like forever.

The puppet show, wishfully titled Nothing to Worry About, is an Army-sponsored program intended to make children of soldiers more resilient by gently reassuring them that their absent parents still love and remember them.

Moderator Breta Sandifer reminds the 60 kids that other children share their fears and that talking about them is good. "It's absolutely OK just to cry," she says.

Programs like this are part of a sweeping Pentagon effort to emotionally safeguard children whose parents are at war. An estimated 1.9 million kids have a mom or dad in uniform, and since 2001, a third of all U.S. forces have served or are serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. In number and scope, the support programs offered by the Army are unprecedented. One Army official says the efforts signal a new willingness by the military to promote and embrace counseling and family assistance, especially as the war in Iraq approaches its fourth year. By helping to care for the families on the home front, officials hope to encourage soldiers to re-enlist. They also hope to ensure that a generation of children will better cope with the effects of war.

"We realize that if we don't care for our families, soldiers are not going to stay," says Lt. Col. Mary Dooley-Bernard, the Army's family advocacy program manager.

The military has expanded coping and counseling services for families, and support groups and troves of literature have emerged specifically for children with parents at war. The latest in the Your Buddy CJ activity book series, due out in April, offers tips to children with a parent who's an amputee.

And a 24-hour, toll-free hotline called Military OneSource has become a lifeline for some families. Operators offer information and referrals for counseling on everything from emotional problemsto parenting. This year through October, almost 100,000 calls or online requests came in, a 20% increase over all such requests last year.

Even as the resources grow, however, military researchers remain concerned. They admit that they're still struggling to understand the impact that the long and repeated battle tours have on the children of those fighting. Previous studies focused on children of a parent gone for a single tour of duty. In this war, families have been separated two, three or more times.

Ten-year-old Kalysta Fern, who lives with her family in Missoula, Mont., began suffering nightmares when her stepfather was deployed to Iraq from 2003 to 2004. In the dreams, he dies.

" 'Would he be killed?' That was my most-often question," she recalls. "My mom just told me that she didn't know, but that he probably wouldn't be. ... When you love someone as much as I love him, it just aches."

Bad dreams continue to this day, more than a year after his safe return, she says.

Worries and realities

The antagonist of Nothing to Worry About is Mr. Grumpy, a tousled-haired puppet with a bow tie and gravelly voice. "Maybe this will get you worried!" he tells the students. "Maybe your dad's (military) company will get attacked like we see on the news."

That's when moderator Sandifer steps in. "OK, Mr. Grumpy," she says reproachfully. "You know what? If that happens, they have big airplanes and big helicopters and a lot of soldiers who are extremely well trained ... They know exactly what to do."

At Bill Hefner Elementary — where 65% of the 830 students are from military families, and 120 of those have a deployed parent — concerns run deep, even among the youngest. Kindergartners barely able to write their names have lined up to fill out slips for counseling. As they did last year, guidance counselors will soon form small support-group sessions with children whose parents are deployed. They will sit in tiny chairs around a small table; on the wall, the counselors will hang a National Geographic map with construction-paper hearts framing two countries: Iraq and Afghanistan.

School guidance counselor Denise Holmes says the children will talk about fears.

"One may say, 'Dad called, and I could hear sand blowing in the background and that scared me.' Or, 'We haven't heard from dad in two weeks.' Or, 'Mom's been crying.' Or, 'Mom's been going out at night, and I'm worried about her.' "

Last year, the little groups gave themselves names such as Tuff Stuff and Braveheart.

"These kids are so young, all they've known is their daddy has been at war, their momma has been at war," says Allison Dickens, a guidance counselor at Highland Elementary School in Sanford, N.C., near Fort Bragg. "It's almost as if they don't have a normal childhood to compare it to."

She echoes the hope of many child experts: Children will prove resilient and can be made stronger.

But Army Col. Stephen Cozza, a psychiatrist studying the war's impact on boys and girls, says not enough is yet known. "It would be destructive to assume either widespread pathology or uniform resilience as a result of these wartime experiences," he writes in the latest issue of Psychiatric Quarterly.

William Harrison, superintendent of the 53,000-student Cumberland County Schools in Fayetteville, where about every third child is from a military family, says, "If you want kids to be learning and growing, they've got to be focused. And that is something that gets in the way of that big time if you're going to bed every night wondering if mom or dad is going to be OK."

In El Paso, the April children — CM, 14, Leah, 5 and Brenna, 3 — haven't had more than three months with their father, Capt. Doug April, since early 2003. An Army pilot, he was in Iraq for a year, in training for another and on short deployments elsewhere. They hope to see him for Christmas.

His wife, Dawn Vigil-April, has the entire family in counseling: CM because he needs to talk with someone; Brenna because she throw things and bites; and Leah because of depression she cannot shake. Leah "seems to have the weight of the world on her shoulders," her mother says. "She withdraws instead of acting out. She is the one I hope gets a lot of therapy, so she does not swallow all of her feelings, so she gains tools to cope in this crazy world, so she can miss her daddy, but still be happy."

Long-term impact

Back on stage, Mr. Grumpy again plays the cynic. "Your dad says he misses you, but I bet he'll forget your birthday!"

A round-faced girl puppet named Rachel sets him straight. "Oh, Mr. Grumpy, he didn't forget my birthday. My dad sent me a neat card, and he's bringing me something special when he comes home. Even though it was late, I knew my dad still remembered."

War deployments and all that follows — including missed birthdays — have historically had a lasting influence on the children left behind, says Morten Ender, a sociologist at the United States Military Academy. "Not to say they were suffering PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). But handfuls are traumatized by that period. Still others consider it a very dramatic and most significant period in their life which stayed with them."

Children of Vietnam prisoners of war or those whose parents were missing in action suffered some of the most dramatic emotional injuries, Ender says. They had increased rates of health issues, accidental injuries, surgeries and behavioral problems. Cozza says another emotionally vulnerable group of Vietnam-era children were the sons and daughters of soldiers with PTSD.

Some of the most comprehensive studies pertain to the Persian Gulf War, which was shorter and had far fewer casualties than the current conflicts. Cozza says the results showed moderate increases in depression and anxiety among children. The deployments seemed to more seriously affect boys than girls, preschool children and those with pre-existing emotional or behavioral problems, Cozza says.

The research has highlighted the need for the military to aggressively urge soldiers, their wives and children to use the counseling and other services now provided.

During her husband's deployment, Amy Huckaby came to see the suffering of her children as a necessary sacrifice that his service to the country demands.

Jason Huckaby, a commercial truck driver from Marianna, Fla., served a year in Iraq with the Florida National Guard. He returned in June.

While the father was gone, his oldest, Andrew, 16, dropped out of wrestling. He was adamant that he needed to stay home and be the man of the family. Catie Anne, 8, woke up screaming for her daddy and began failing in school. Dylan, 10, got into fights. He and Catie developed ulcers.

"That's what happens," says Amy Huckaby. "You live in almost like a state of fear all the time."

The effects can be lasting. Fort Bragg-area educator Tina Lee Miller is the daughter of a soldier who served in Vietnam and died last March. Ten years ago, at 35, she suffered a severe anxiety attack. A clinical therapist diagnosed it as stemming, in part, from an intense fear as a child of losing her father to war.

Teaching bravery

Despite her best efforts to resist Mr. Grumpy's gloomy ways, Rachel admits her fears to the puppet-show audience. "You know what, Breta? I do worry about my dad being safe."

"Oh Rachel, I'm sure you do," Sandifer says. "(But) the Army is extremely safe. The soldiers work very hard to make sure everyone is safe and everything is safe."

In Maureen Gregory's fifth-grade class at Rockfish Hoke Elementary School in nearby Raeford, N.C., more than half the students have military parents. At least three dads are now in Iraq. Each time a parent leaves, her students write letters and create drawings that are sent to the parent at war. Last month, the class put together a package for Joseph Guthrie's father, Staff Sgt. Arthur Guthrie, who just left.

"I really know how Joseph and you are feeling," classmate Margaret Misner, 11, wrote in her letter. "My dad just left for Iraq, too. My mom, my brother and me and my sister already miss him."

"I am so sorry that you have to go to Iraq," classmate Yajarai Spence, 10, wrote in her letter. "I feel sad and lonely when my dad has to deploy. ... When I'm really sad, I talk with my mom."

"I hope you will be safe and don't get hurt," Joseph, 11, wrote to his father. "I wish this war was over right now, so you could come home. I don't want you to go because it really makes me sad."

School provides normalcy

War is inherently dangerous. And schools know that they need to prepare for the worst that could happen. "As a school, the best thing we could ever do is provide normalcy," says George Marston, principal of Rockfish Hoke Elementary, where 75% of 540 students have parents in the military.

Military liaison officers work closely with public schools to help teachers and guidance counselors understand the military culture, the fears children may experience and the difficulties of repeated separations. Online services and workshops are offered. Some school districts do more than others.

The Pentagon hires psychologists and social workers to work at military installations as "family life" consultants. Child care services also are offered. Community service groups, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, 4-H, chambers of commerce and veterans' organizations are enlisted by military family officials to assist children, particularly those of National Guard and Reserve families who live far from base support.

The puppet show at Fort Bragg was borrowed from the Marines. The Army social workers modified it and now hope to take it on tour.

Parents such as Susie Lozano — whose husband, Army Sgt. 1st Class Rodolfo Lozano, is serving in Afghanistan — are encouraged to attend so they can discuss the show with their children. Lozano's son, Nicolas, 8, is a student at Hefner. She also brought her daughter Amelia, 3.

"I really try to make them think more about turning their sadness into bravery and feeling pride for their parent and what they're doing for their country," guidance counselor Holmes says.

When the puppet show ended at Bill Hefner school, 7-year-old Meghan Dorr walked to the front of the multipurpose room to read remarks she'd prepared.

She told classmates that her mother, a soldier in the Army, had returned from Iraq after a year away. "Don't feel sad, because your parents will come home," she reassured her classmates. "Just be brave and try your best in school and try to be strong."

A few good video wishes

Cameras at Camp Pendleton tape holiday messages from Marines' loved ones


12:23 AM PST on Tuesday, December 13, 2005

By JOE VARGO / The Press-Enterprise

Paul Alvarez / The Press-Enterprise

Tianna Hankins, of Escondido, films a holiday message to her husband, U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Ronnie Hankins, who is stationed in Iraq, as part of Operation Best Wishes at Camp Pendleton.
He's "bye-bye" with other members of his light armored reconnaissance unit in Iraq.

But Monday, through the magic of Webcasting and the Internet, Abby and her mother, Katie, sent holiday greetings to Marine Corps Sgt. Andy Winn.

"We love you very much," Katie Winn, 21, said as a camera recorded her message, which her husband can download and enjoy anytime during the next six months. "We've been practicing our ho-ho-hos. We miss you, and we can't wait for you to come home."

Mother and daughter were among 30 Marine families to send Christmas greetings over the Internet as part of Operation Best Wishes. A makeshift recording studio was set up in a base credit union, and spouses, children, relatives, friends and family pets took advantage Sunday and Monday to spread a little love and cheer to Marines half a world away.

Well-wishers included families living on base and those from surrounding communities who have loved ones stationed at Camp Pendleton. The base is home to hundreds of Inland Marines who commute daily.
Katie Winn, of Oceanside, and her 2-year-old daughter, Abby, spend some quiet time together after sending a Christmas greeting to Marine Corps Sgt. Andy Winn.

Katie Winn, who lives on base, has endured two tours of duty.

Last year, Andy Winn was gone for most of the summer. This is the first holiday season he won't be home. She said she avoids watching news broadcasts and relies on his training and buddies to see him through.

"I trust him and the people he's with," Katie Winn said. "I know he's going to be okay."

The holidays have been especially hard on Oceanside resident Cynthia Quintero, 23, whose husband is serving with an artillery unit in Ramadi. Three of Staff Sgt. Alex Quintero's colleagues were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near them two weeks ago. She's being treated for stress. She brought her niece, Denise Alonso, 12, and pet Chihuahua, Daisy, to cheer up her husband. Quintero was shaking after recording her brief message Monday.

"Hi baby," she said. "We miss you a lot. Come back soon."

Quintero said she and her 30-year-old husband have three Chihuahuas, and he takes guff from his Marine buddies for raising the tiny critters. She dressed one of the dogs, Daisy, in a red dress and bow to show her husband.

"He loves his Chihuahuas," Quintero said.

Tianna Hankins, 23, of Escondido, said her husband left the Marines in 1998 after a four-year hitch but soon regretted it. Lance Cpl. Ronnie Hankins, 32, reenlisted in March and left in August for Iraq, where he's part of a military police detachment.

"Hey Honey," she said, speaking into the camera lens. "I just want you to know I love you, I miss you, and I'm really proud of what you're doing."

Reach Joe Vargo at (951) 567-2407 or [email protected]
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Holiday treats, trees bound for troops in Iraq

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE - Marine Warrant Officer Marlon Ware knows what it's like to be pulled far away from his family and to be in harm's way at Christmas.


02:24 AM PST on Tuesday, December 13, 2005

By IMRAN VITTACHI / The Press-Enterprise

David Bauman / The Press-Enterprise
DHL employees at March Air Reserve Base load Christmas trees that will be trucked to Los Angeles and flown to U.S. troops in Iraq.

The activated reservist from Moreno Valley saw combat in Iraq during last year's battle of Fallujah. Ware, 35, came home in January, but his Iraqi tour forced him to miss the holiday season with his family.

"Missiles would be falling around me," Ware recalled. "You'd go up and down and think about your family ... The e-mails I got from my wife and family, I'd read them 10 times over."

The warrant officer and other Marines stationed at Camp Pendleton were at March Air Reserve Base on Monday to express appreciation from the Marine Corps, as a shipment of more than 200 locally donated Christmas trees and other goodies bound for U.S. troops in Iraq was being readied for departure. There were also boxes of holiday lights, ornaments and menorahs.

A specially decorated DHL tractor-trailer truck had been filled at the cargo carrier's West Coast distribution center with four container loads of Monterey pines, 600 boxes of holiday lights, 400 boxes of ornaments, 200 boxes of candy canes, 100 boxes of menorahs, and hand-made cards bearing holiday greetings from Moreno Valley schoolchildren.

The effort was intended to spread holiday cheer and "to try and bring a little (bit of) home to the troops over there," said Laura Froehlich, a volunteer organizer.

The truck departed Monday morning for Los Angeles International Airport, where its cargo was to be off-loaded onto a DHL flight destined to Kuwait via New York's John F. Kennedy Airport. From Kuwait, the shipment would be delivered to members of the Marine 1st and 2nd Expeditionary Forces in Iraq, who had deployed from March, said Robert Mintz, a DHL spokesman.

DHL and the March Joint Powers Authority arranged the shipment. The JPA, the base's civilian authority governed jointly by Riverside County and the cities of Moreno Valley, Perris and Riverside, raised almost $7,000 among local businesses, churches and organizations to pay for the ornaments, lights and treats.

The 5-foot to 6-foot-tall trees were given away by three nurseries, including the Triple A Egg Farm in Nuevo and Sand Haven Pines in Lake Mathews.

"The guys that are over there are giving up a lot more than we are giving up," said Dana Rye, one of the co-owners of Sand Haven Pines.

Reach Imran Vittachi at (951) 567-2404 or [email protected]

Enjoying Holidays with Your Children

Content Provided by Military OneSource

See external link for more info: http://www.military.com/spouse/fs/0,,fs_child_holiday,00.html?ESRC=family.nl

Here are some ways that families can enjoy holidays without feeling overwhelmed or disappointed.

* Try to stick to routines
* Build up to holidays slowly
* Manage your child's expectations about gifts
* Encourage generosity and the gift of giving
* Be clear about your expectations for your child's behavior
* Settle on traditions that feel right for your family
* Be aware of your child's needs if there are special circumstances
* Mark the end of the holiday with a closing ritual

What children want during a holiday season is much the same thing they want all year long -- relaxed time with their parents and to be showered with gifts and attention. But the things that make a season "magical" for children -- presents and celebrations -- can also make it stressful and hectic for parents. The result can be unmet expectations and disappointments for the whole family. But there are ways to have a more meaningful and enjoyable holiday with your children. By looking at your child's needs, your needs, and what kind of holiday you want for your family, you will all be better prepared to truly enjoy those holidays.

Back To Top

Try to stick to routines
With all the excitement surrounding holidays, many children become overtired and wound up, skipping naps and meals, and not getting to bed on time. This can spoil their good time and yours. Your child will do best if you keep to regular routines, especially sleeping and eating routines. You may want to feed your child before a holiday party if you don't know when the meal will be served, or if you aren't sure your child will eat it. Suggest that you all take an afternoon nap if you'll be up late.

If sticking to routines isn't possible, at least try to maintain a regular schedule in the weeks leading up to holidays. Try also to avoid making major changes in your child's life during this hectic time. For example, this is not a good time to move your toddler from a crib to a bed. That can wait a few weeks.

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Build up to holidays slowly
During holidays that require a lot of planning, many parents are so busy they actually wind up spending less time than usual with their children. But if you spread out holiday rituals over several weeks, you can plan activities to bring your family together in relaxed and meaningful ways. This also helps prolong the pleasure of the holidays, since all the excitement and activity isn't concentrated in just one or two days. You might listen to holiday music together, read favorite stories, go to concerts, choose a night to watch a classic movie, or spend time preparing food as a family. Try to involve your child in the planning and choosing of these rituals, and mark them on your calendar with stickers or drawings. That way, even pre-readers will know when "cooking day" is coming up.

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Manage your child's expectations about gifts
Letting your child know in advance what he can expect in general terms will help prevent a meltdown on the actual holiday. One way to begin the conversation about gifts is to ask your child to make a wish list of what he most wants. Then let him know if any item is completely out of the question. If possible, it's best to explain: "I wish I could get you a new bike this year, but we can't afford it."

Remember that television plays a big role in shaping children's expectations about gifts. You can cut back on TV during this time. Or help your child become an educated consumer by watching a program with her. Point out how many commercials there are and how often the toys and products sold on TV don't seem to work as well in real life. Even young children can understand some of this message.

In setting expectations about gifts outside the family, you might talk to relatives and friends about how to handle presents if this feels comfortable. You might suggest one gift for your whole family on holidays, and individual gifts for birthdays. You could also mention to your child's favorite relative that planning a special activity together for after the holidays would be a perfect present. If a relative does bring a gift for your child before a holiday, you might let your child open it in advance. That way, you can avoid overload on any one day and the sender can have the pleasure of enjoying your child's reaction firsthand.

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Encourage generosity and the gift of giving
Add a "giving" tradition to your family's holiday ritual. Ideas include donating clothes, helping out at a senior citizens' center, or contributing a gift for a child through a toy drive. You can teach your child to think about others by becoming involved in a project at home like cleaning up and recycling the toys she has outgrown and passing them on to a shelter for homeless families. All of these efforts help take some of the focus away from "me."

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Be clear about your expectations for your child's behavior
It's natural to want to show off your child to relatives and friends on holidays. But try to avoid battles that will ruin the day for all of you, such as insisting that your child wear a special dress or a hairstyle she hates. Give your child some say in what he will wear and how he will look, whenever possible. Avoid general comments like, "I want you to act nicely," or "Use good manners." State specifically what your expectations are: "I want you to ask to be excused before you leave the table," or "Do not exclude your brother when you are playing with your cousin." But don't expect perfection.

When visiting others, try to achieve a balance between being a good guest and doing what is best for your child. For instance, if your child is an older infant experiencing stranger anxiety, she may get upset being passed from one adoring relative to the next. Or if your highly energetic 4-year-old doesn't do well opening too many gifts in front of a large group, you may want to have him open some of them later when the group has broken up. Most people will understand, especially if you explain.

If you will be seeing a relative your child hasn't seen in some time, look at pictures of the person beforehand and remind your child of how you are all connected.

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Settle on traditions that feel right for your family
Children take tremendous comfort and security from being able to count on the same rituals and traditions every year, whatever they are in your family. These do not have to be monumental events. They can be simple activities like decorating the house, eating certain foods, listening to special music, or attending a religious service. Don't be afraid to re-evaluate a tradition that is taking too much time, that is too expensive, or that your family has outgrown. Talk with your children about which traditions mean the most to them and which ones they feel don't fit with your family's needs anymore. Keep in mind that something new you do this year to commemorate the holidays could become next year's cherished family tradition.

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Be aware of your child's needs if there are special circumstances
If your family has recently experienced a divorce, death, illness, job loss, or other big change, be aware that your child is surely going to feel the effects of this change around a holiday. In the case of a death, you may want to find a way to remember that person during this year's celebration. If your child is part of a blended family, it's important to support her efforts at gift giving for stepparents and stepsiblings, even though this may be difficult for you. It could mean a lot to your child.

As a parent, you can help your child by acknowledging that a holiday will be different this year from past years. Give your child the opportunity to express his feelings. Your child may be more apt to open up if you can share some of what you are feeling. Acknowledging feelings of sadness, anger, and loss can help bring your family closer together. It can also help you move on to enjoy holidays more.

If you will be away from your child for a holiday, let him know what your plans are so that he won't feel sad for you and he will know where to reach you. Plan a way to celebrate together before or after the holiday.

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Mark the end of the holiday with a closing ritual
All of the buildup and excitement before a holiday can lead to feelings of letdown afterward. You can help your child get back to a normal routine by marking the end of a holiday period with a closing ritual. Your ritual might be to take down the decorations, write thank-you notes to relatives and friends, or place the pictures you took this holiday in a photo album filled with family memories.

Planning ahead for holidays and setting realistic expectations for yourself and others will help to make the time more enjoyable for everyone.

Written with the help of Rebecca Dion, master in social services, LCSW, QCSW, CEAP. Ms. Dion is regional director of Behavioral Health Residential Services at Northwestern Human Services and is a member of the National Association of Social Workers. She is past board member of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse.

© 2005 Ceridian Corporation. All rights reserved.

Marines Call In Reinforcements For Toy Detail

PLAINVILLE -- Most years, there are about 200 Marines to sort and distribute 50,000 toys for the state's largest Toys for Tots drive. But after most were deployed to fight in Iraq this year, only seven remained to finish a job that would test the most dexterous of Santa's elves.

December 13, 2005
By DANIEL E. GOREN, Courant Staff Writer

To help them, the Marines have called in another unit:the New Britain High School JROTC.

As thousands of toys arrive in the run up to Christmas, the seven Marines and their high school helpers must sort plush bunnies, action figures and board games from first thing in the morning until as late as necessary. They create piles of toys for children of different ages, and the piles at their peak have reached as high as the basketball rims in the gym where they are held.

Of the 198 Marines typically stationed at the Naval & Marine Corps Reserve Center in Plainville, 191 were activated on Dec. 1. After training in Massachusetts and California, they will head for Iraq.

"We are not only fighting the front over there in Iraq, but we are also taking care of our own here in our communities," said Staff Sgt. Freddy Tello.

The Plainville reserve center distributes the bulk of the program's toys in Connecticut. The Naval & Marine Corps Reserve Center in New Haven also runs a Toys For Tots program, though not as large. Of the 88 Marines normally stationed in New Haven, 18 have been deployed to Iraq.

Each day, the JROTC has sent 25 to 30 students to help organize the toys. And since the high school students cannot legally wield a standard-issue weapon or drive a convoy truck, many in the JROTC see it as their civic duty to help put smiles on the faces of children in need.

"It is our duty as Americans," said John Mattex, 17, a captain in the JROTC and senior at the high school. "They are defending us. And since we can't go overseas, this is something we can do to help."

"I just want to see the kids' faces when they get these presents," added Danny Eshou, 16, and a 1st sergeant with the JROTC.

"It's the Marine Corps, so we go where we are told and we make the best with what we have," Staff Sgt. Gary Thompson said Monday. "And that is true even if that means we have to work seven days a week."

Thompson said the Marines who are still in Connecticut, while happy to help the Toys For Tots drive, wish they were training with their company.

Thompson recently returned from fighting in Afghanistan and is waiting to have surgery on cartilage damage in his knee. He said he finished his last tour, but fought with an injury suffered when he "fell down a mountain." The seven who remain all have reasons for staying - be it physical injury or the recent loss of a sibling, killed by an Iraqi landmine.

Toys for Tots started in 1947 when Maj. Bill Hendricks and his fellow Marine Reservists in Los Angeles collected and distributed 5,000 toys to needy children. Over 57 years that the Marine Corps Reserve has run the program, it has distributed more than 332.5 million toys to 158.7 million needy children, according to the Toys for Tots' website.

Both state programs need more toys, particularly for children 8 and older, and volunteers. Toys can be dropped off in Plainville at 1 Linsley Drive and in New Haven at 30 Woodward Ave. Volunteers can simply show up.

Family Upset After Soldier's Body Shipped As Freight

SAN DIEGO -- There's controversy over how the military is transporting the bodies of service members killed overseas, San Diego TV station KGTV reported.


UPDATED: 10:55 am EST December 13, 2005

A soldier's family said fallen soldiers and Marines deserve better and that one would think American war heroes are being transported with dignity, care and respect. It said one would think upon arrival in their hometowns they are greeted with honor. But the family said that is just not the case.

Dead U.S. troops are supposed to come home with their coffins draped with the American flag -- greeted by a color guard. But in reality, many are arriving as freight on commercial airliners -- stuffed in the belly of a plane with suitcases and other cargo.

John Holley and his wife, Stacey, were stunned when they found out the body of their only child, Matthew John Holley, who died in Iraq last month, would be arriving at Lindbergh Field as freight.

Matthew was a medic with the 101st Airborne and died on Nov. 15.

"When someone dies in combat, they need to give them due respect they deserve for (the) sacrifice they made," said John Holley.

John and Stacey Holley, who were both in the Army, made some calls, and with the help of U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, Matthew was greeted with honor and respect.

"Our familiarity with military protocol and things of that sort allowed us to kind of put our foot down -- we're not sure other parents have that same knowledge," said Stacey Holley.

The Holleys now want to make sure every fallen service member gets the proper welcome.

The bodies of dead service members arrive at Dover Air Force Base. From that point, they are sent to their families on commercial airliners.

Reporters from KGTV called the Defense Department for an explanation. A representative said she did not know why this is happening.

Distributed by Internet Broadcasting Systems, Inc. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Michigan Marine dies in training accident in Japan

TOKYO The U-S military said today that a Marine from suburban Detroit has died in a training accident in Japan.
It says Corporal David W- Smith of Wayne was killed on Sunday when a seven-ton military vehicle overturned.


TOKYO The U-S military said today that a Marine from suburban Detroit has died in a training accident in Japan.
It says Corporal David W- Smith of Wayne was killed on Sunday when a seven-ton military vehicle overturned.

Four other Marines were injured in the accident at Camp Fuji, southwest of Tokyo.

The U-S military says the cause of the accident is under investigation. 1/4

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.http://www.marine-corps-news.com/cgi-bin/mt/mt.cgi?__mode=view&_type=entry&blog;_id=1#
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Marine dad plans deep talk with son

Editor's note: This is an occasional series featuring stories of soldiers far from home and their loved ones here.

What it's like to be a Marine Reserve with a 5 year old son, and explain to him why Daddy must leave.


Staff Writer

Last update: December 13, 2005

Q. Your Marine Reserve unit has been deployed, and your 5-year-old son, Jacob, will visit you at Camp LeJeune, N.C., during the holidays. What will you tell him about leaving for Iraq soon after Christmas?

The most important thing to explain to him is, yes Daddy's going to a dangerous area, but I have to make sure he is not afraid. I want him to understand there's a chance I may not come home and not fool him, but that my friends are going to be watching my back and I'll be watching their backs. The main thing is to do our job and come home.

Name, rank and age: Sgt. Jeffrey Schoenwetter, 36

Military Branch: U.S. Marine Reserves

Assignment: Training in Jacksonville, N.C., and soon headed to Iraq.

Schoenwetter family
Schoenwetter poses with his son Jacob on his last night in Florida.
Q. How did you prepare for this deployment?

The military sends word down through the chain of command that we are being activated -- about three months before activation. We get our shots for going overseas, take care of paperwork, send letters to our employers. We get a letter telling us what time and day we have to show up -- usually about three days out.

Q. What will you take with you?

They don't want anybody to go into combat without all their gear -- uniforms, boots, pistol and belt, magazine pouches, load bearing vests, sappi (steel) plates which goes inside our body armor to help protect us a little more. It's close to 100 pounds of gear.

Q. When did you join the Marine Reserves?

I joined the Marines right out of high school in 1987. I signed the papers at 17 and went to boot camp in 1988, and joined Bravo Company, with the Marine Reserve unit's amphibious vehicle mechanics. In 1991, I was in Desert Storm outside of Kuwait City as a section mechanic with a platoon -- for an amphibious armored personnel carrier. In 1995, I got out of the reserves for eight years. I rejoined in 2003. In 2004 I went to South America for six months and in 2005 to Louisiana after Katrina through October.

Q. You have served in a lot of locations, but what did you do back home?

I'm originally from Cincinnati, but I lived in Spring Lake, Ky., until I was 15 and then moved to Port Orange. I graduated from Spruce Creek (High School) in 1987 and have done a few things -- construction in Edgewater, mechanics school at Daytona Beach Community College and worked for Gary Yeomans Ford for a year, then the Volusia County Fire Department and back to DBCC for EMT and firefighter training. Then I drove a non-emergency ambulance for Para Transit in New Smyrna Beach. I worked for Alpha Therapeutics in Holly Hill as a phlebotomist, for Water Wheels, and in '98 at Fish Memorial in New Smyrna Beach as an emergency room technician. For the last eight years, I was a Sanford firefighter.

Marines' toy drive has no gifts left

A Lake Stevens group was unable to get about 300 presents it had requested for children in need.

LAKE STEVENS - Santa may be left holding an empty bag for hundreds of children because the Toys for Tots warehouse is empty.


By Cathy Logg
Herald Writer

LAKE STEVENS - Santa may be left holding an empty bag for hundreds of children because the Toys for Tots warehouse is empty.

There are no presents to distribute to organizations such as the Lake Stevens Family Support Center, which tries to provide toys for children in need.

The Lake Stevens center officials had an appointment Monday to pick up about 300 presents they requested from the U.S. Marine Corps' annual Toys for Tots program.

"I got a call on Friday," center program manager Kathleen Friend said Monday. "He felt so bad. He said, 'I am so sorry, ma'am.' I am standing in an empty warehouse.' "

Toys for Toys officials in Seattle were unavailable for comment.

Friend said it's disappointing.

"We've got 600 kids here. I don't know what we're going to do. We cross our fingers, we beg a little, we pray a little," she said.

"That's the most heartbreaking thing I've ever heard of, not having toys for kids at Christmas. We've got people who are still coming in in tears and saying, 'I don't know what I'm going to do. I can't even buy my kids dinner for Christmas.' "

This year has been hard for people who give to help others because there have been so many disasters, Friend said.

Even the Lake Stevens Fire Department, which recently conducted its annual Tips for Toys project, was hit by fewer donations, Friend said. Last year, it adopted 50 children from the center's list; this year only 31, she said.

Anyone wishing to donate money or new, unwrapped toys may call Friend at 425-397-7433.

Reporter Cathy Logg: 425-339-3437 or [email protected]

Many say goodbye

More than 600 eulogize the Byron native as a hero.


By MELISSA WESTPHAL, Rockford Register Star

ROCKFORD — If you met Andrew Patten, you probably remember his smile, his good-natured sense of humor and his strong sense of faith.

People who never met him, many of whom gathered at his funeral Monday morning at Maywood Evangelical Free Church in Rockford, learned about those traits and got a two-hour glimpse of the 19-year-old’s life as a mischievous youth-group member and loyal Marine who enlisted knowing what the future could bring.

Patten and nine other Marines died after an explosion Dec. 1 in Fallujah. On Monday, his fellow Marines gathered to pay tribute, and his friends and church family eulogized a man they call a hero. His was one of four military funerals held in Illinois since Saturday.

“Andy joined the Marines knowing full well that we were in a time of war. He wasn’t scared. He knew what his chances were when he went in, and he loved this country,” friend Eric Johnson said.

On Wednesday, Patten’s family will gather for his burial in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

‘An American hero’

A group of uniformed Marines escorted Patten’s flag-draped casket down the church aisle as more than 600 mourned. A dozen bouquets lined the altar, giving the sanctuary a fresh-flower smell.

Maywood Administrative Pastor Larry Seagren was the first speaker to mention Patten’s smile, which he said often “bordered on mischievous.” Patten and his family were longtime members of Maywood, where people say he developed a deep interest in religion. Patten’s photo is posted on the church’s Web site. His military company had nicknamed him “the Rev.”

Seagren’s voiced choked up several times during his eulogy, when he spoke of Patten’s musical talents, youth-group adventures and insatiable appetite. Patten played piano but also studied viola, trumpet and guitar. He played trumpet just long enough to travel with the high school band to Disney World, Seagren joked.

“He had too much energy for his body to contain,” Seagren said. “His dad told me he could devour an entire frozen pizza, and 15 minutes later, he would be asking about dinner.”

Seagren and his wife talked to Patten last June about going to Iraq. Patten planned to attend college when he returned from the war. Seagren also read a letter written by Patten’s mother, Gayle Naschansky, father, Alan Patten, and sister, Allison Patten, that said Patten dreamed about being a Marine.

“You’ll always be our dreamer, an American hero,” the letter said.

‘Always himself’

Monday’s service included several musical numbers performed by Patten’s friends, a worship group at Maywood that he had been a part of. Group member Matt Nyberg and friend Mike Bond spoke emotionally about Patten’s sense of humor and dependability.

Bond and Patten met during Bond’s senior year of high school, and the two regularly bowled together. Bond said Patten quickly earned the name “Twinkletoes” for his style of approaching and throwing the ball.

“He was always himself,” Bond said. “There was nothing fake about him. Andy didn’t compromise who he was for anybody.

“Even when we did nothing, it was fun to be around Andy. He could make anybody smile. There were times when we did nothing but sit and talk. ... It was so amazing how Andy could turn ordinary situations into extraordinary ones.”

Nyberg earned several laughs with stories about crazy behavior at snow camp and mission trips. He and Bond agreed that it was difficult to watch Patten leave for Iraq, but they were able to talk and see each other on breaks.

“On Dec. 1, all these memories we treasure that at the time just seemed like an ordinary day became once-in-a-lifetime kinds of memories,” Nyberg said.

Choking back tears, he added that pictures and songs, and days such as Veterans Day and Memorial Day will trigger memories of Patten.

“When I do that, I know I’m going to stand a little taller, I’ll hold my head up high and I’m going to smile because I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that on Dec. 1, 2005, Andy came into the presence of his creator, his savior, his God and he heard the words ‘Well done,’ ” Nyberg said.

“And right now, he’s just sitting up in heaven, waiting for all of us to get up there and join the celebration.”

A video screen showed photos of Patten as a messy-faced toddler sitting in his highchair through graduation at Byron High School to his time in the Marines, all set to music by Tim McGraw’s song, “My Old Friend.”

Maywood Senior Pastor Scott Nesse said that God used the Marines to bring added focus to Patten’s life. Through the church, Patten interacted with many mentors. But in the end, Patten became the mentor, Nesse said.

“There are going to be more men, better men walking the streets of Rockford and elsewhere because of Andy Patten and what God did through him,” Nesse said.

Contact: [email protected]; 815-987-1352

Iraq coalition casualties

December 12, 2005

Some Marine posts have just the bare necessities

Hot meals, showers in short supply at smaller Iraq bases

KARMAH, Iraq — Lance Cpl. Aaron Snell was eagerly devouring his Thursday morning breakfast, the only hot meal served each week at this small outpost, known here only as “O-P Three,” just a few miles east of Fallujah. (2/2 Golf)


“We haven’t had hot dinner in, like, months,” Snell said as he shoveled scrambled eggs, bacon and fried potatoes from a cardboard tray.

Although the relative luxuries of Camp Fallujah are just a few miles away, many Marines at smaller bases spend weeks — or even months — at a time without returning to dining hall food, hot showers, laundry services and Internet access.

“We used to go back once a week, but the risk was just too high,” said 1st Sgt. Craig Yohe, of the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment’s Company G.

The risk is roadside bombs, one that has dramatically altered these Marines’ lives and the tactics they use in this persistently dangerous patch of Anbar province. Limiting nonessential vehicle travel has been a key element to this battalion’s strategy for staying safe.

“We have changed everything we do,” said Maj. Christopher Dixon, executive officer of the 2/2 Battalion, which is based at Camp Fallujah but has dispersed most of its Marines to small bases across the countryside north of the city.

Changes since Dixon’s battalion arrived in July include converting many vehicle patrols into foot patrols, which allow troops to detect roadside bombs more easily. They use helicopters for operations, if possible. And all logistics are consolidated into large and infrequent convoys, sent at strategic windows of time after checking the main routes for bombs.

That has helped drive down the number of roadside bomb attacks — from 41 in June and 40 in July to just 14 in October and eight in November, according to data provided by the battalion.

Some 15 Marines from the 2-2 Battalion have been killed since they arrived in July, most of them victims of roadside bomb attacks.

For the Marines posted at the small bases, day-to-day life has few amenities.

“I haven’t had a shower in two months,” said Cpl. Michael Fournet, 27, from Louisiana who was living with his platoon at an abandon police station in Karmah.

Lance Cpl. David Rogers from Rochester, N.Y., said he recently wore the same camouflage fatigues for about six weeks in a row without washing them.

Lance Cpl. Matt Boggs said he had not checked his e-mail in nearly two months.

Each Marine is permitted to use a satellite phone for one 10-minute phone call each week. Mail arrives about once a week at O-P Three, an Iraqi residence surrounded by sand-filled barriers and razor wire.

Many of the Marines are so tired of Meals, Ready to Eat that they now subsist on packaged tuna fish, ramen noodles, Spam and other prepackaged food sent in care packages from home.

Despite their relative isolation, many Marines maintain a steady supply of cigarettes and chewing tobacco and insist their assignment to these isolated posts is not entirely unpleasant.

“I enjoy being out here,” said Cpl. Austin Collom from Nashville, Tenn. He said he usually makes a night trip to Camp Fallujah once every two weeks, when he can eat at the chow hall around midnight before returning again before dawn.

“There’s work that’s got to be done out here, so we might as well get it done,” Collom said. “I enjoy being out here with the squad; we’ve been pretty close.”

“There’s too many people at Camp Fallujah who take it for granted, people who get to go to the chow hall every day,” Collom said.

Gift idea for soldier gets Bookman's help

W. Douglas Pritchard just wanted to send a book as a Christmas gift for a friend serving in Iraq.
Now, it looks as if Pritchard could be helping to send potentially hundreds of books to service personnel in Iraq in the coming months, with the support of a Central Tucson bookstore.


By David Wichner
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 12.12.2005

The project, tentatively dubbed the "Tucson Book Caravan," began to germinate a few weeks ago when Pritchard asked his friend Mark Ballis what he could send as a gift to Ballis' son, 19-year-old Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Morgan Ballis, who is serving in Ramadi.
Pritchard, 66, a retired University of Arizona music professor, used to baby-sit Morgan and his older brother, Nicholas, when they were young.
After Ballis suggested a book as a gift, Pritchard sought a recommendation from his neighbor, Lynn Shisler, who works at Bookman's on Grant Road.
"She said, 'Why not send a whole box?' and that's what we did," Pritchard recalled.
When Shisler's manager, Ed Valado, got wind of the project, he offered to supply the books for free and pay the postage of about $25 to send the initial box of about 45 books to Morgan. The store, at 1930 E. Grant Road, had already sent some books to military members overseas, Shisler said.
Accompanying the box was a note asking Morgan to pick out some books and distribute the rest among his unit, part of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, based in Twentynine Palms, Calif. Morgan has not yet sent word that he's received the box, his father said.
Now, Pritchard and Shisler plan to gather names of other service members from local family members and friends and ship a couple of boxes overseas each month.

Headquarters Company 7th Marines prepares to march into combat

The mission of a Marine Corps rifle squad is to locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver and repel the enemy's assault by fire and close combat. (7th Marine HQ)


Lance Cpl. Michael S. Cifuentes

Combat Correspondent

The mission of a Marine Corps rifle squad is to locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver and repel the enemy's assault by fire and close combat.

Over the course of the last three years, Marine Corps rifle squads have put into effect their rifle squad mission in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and even better known are the missions collectively executed by Marine Corps infantry units.

For the past five months, Marines with Headquarters Company, 7th Marine Regiment, have been preparing for their upcoming deployment by broadening their skills and knowledge as basic riflemen aboard the Combat Center.

From Nov. 29 to Dec. 1, the company executed a series of exercises involving machine gun training with the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon and M240G medium machine gun and live-fire military operations in urban terrain training.

The exercises all relate to the company's vital mission in their deployment. Aside from working as a headquarters and service element, the company will be tasked with providing their own provisional rifle platoon and a jump team, tasks ordinarily assigned to infantry units.

The Headquarters Company jump team will be tasked as a force in readiness and convoy security element for the regimental commanding officer.

"The colonel needs to go out and see his men, so the JUMP team will provide him with the convoy and security," said Capt. Randal M. Walsh, commanding officer of Headquarters Company. "Aside from that, they will be prepared to do other missions.

"The provisional rifle platoon is organized of all non-infantry Marines of different working sections in Headquarters Company. Having a unit like this is very useful. All of our battalions call upon us for services support and call upon other infantry units for infantry support. Now, they will be able to turn to us other than infantry battalions for infantry support. We measure up to a quick reaction force."

The Marines have been brought together as one platoon and received training alongside the line company's JUMP team. In the past five months, both the PRP and the JUMP team have been involved in field exercises such as convoy operations training, lane training, or squad rushing and assault, MOUT training, live-fire courses and anything that prepares them for potential missions in Iraq.

"These elements will be known as Regimental Combat Team 7 and will have their own internal capabilities," said Walsh, a Phoenix native, about the PRP and JUMP team. "There are many advantages to these elements and it relieves stress from infantry command elements. What makes this so advanced from other non-infantry combat units is that they have been paired with some infantry Marines from 3/4 [3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment] for guidance."

All the Marines in these platoons have been identified by their section leaders and are mostly volunteers. Although the Marines from the PRP and JUMP team have been training and working together for the past five months, they will not be operating together in Iraq, added Walsh.

By Dec. 1, the Marines were more proficient as riflemen from when they began to train for their deployment and fully qualified in machine gun employment and squad-level training.

Lance Cpl. Spenser G. Fox, infantryman with India Company, 3/4, was tasked as a range coach during the M249 SAW firing course.

"Knowing all the fundamentals of a machine gun and how to fire them is very important to the Marines who will be carrying them in Iraq," said the 20-year-old Yacolt, Wash., native. "Their mission is one of the most important missions out there, and they need to be ready in many ways. All these Marines are fast learners, and I have great confidence in them."

Corporal Alfredo Moreno, motor transportation operator with Headquarters Company was assigned as fire team leader in the second JUMP platoon.

"Training to be a part of a basic rifle platoon is what most Marines want to do in the Marine Corps," said the 20-year-old Azusa, Calif., native. "It's going to be a long deployment for us, and our mission will be demanding. But, we'll have each other to rely on for help and guidance. Since we began this training, we all have drawn closer together as a unit."

Other Marines assigned to the JUMP team share Moreno's feelings. The Marines have spent many days training together in the Combat Center's training area. Most hadn't imagined themselves training to fight in Iraq, and for many of them the last field training like this they participated in was during Marine Combat Training, said Walsh.

"I think it's more of an honor to be a part of this element," said Lance Cpl. Steven G. Haddicks, a 19-year-old Compton, Calif., native and administration clerk with Headquarters Company. "Most of the Marines have been deployed to Iraq already so I feel privileged to go along with them again. We've been training hard together and interacting with each other a whole lot in ways to prepare ourselves for our deployment. I've always wanted to go through this experience and help with the fight out there, and I wouldn't want to do this with anyone else by my side but them."

II MAW Marines Leave for Desert Talon

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. - Aircraft and Marines from among three squadrons here left within the past three weeks to participate in a semi-annual Marine aviation training exercise at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz.


Marine Corps News | J.R. Stence | December 12, 2005

The units participating in Exercise Desert Talon are Marine Wing Support Squadron 274, Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 2 and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 14.

Chief Warrant Officer Scott Newell, the adjutant with MWSS-274, said this is the first time that all of the "Iron Men" have been deployed since Operation Desert Storm. Newell said Desert Talon provides MWSS-274 Marines experience in desert conditions similar to those they will face during an upcoming squadron-wide deployment to Iraq, set to take place sometime in 2006.

While In Iraq, MWSS-274 will provide air base security, maintain airfields, assist in aircraft recovery, set up forward arming and refueling points, maintain communication equipment and run convoys for units throughout the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.

Newell said the squadron has already spent seven months getting ready for the deployment.

Capt. Roderick Capili, the logistics officer with VMAQ-2, said that in addition to preparing for deployment, the Jesters are using the training exercise to ensure that the squadron keeps its training flight hours up to date.

The wave of VMAQ-2 Marines that recently left for Desert Talon joined a group of about 40 Jesters who were already there, said Capili.

Christmas surprise

STAUNTON — It's 76 degrees in Baghdad today. There's not a snowflake in sight. And there's certainly no such thing as a silent night.


By David Royer/staff
[email protected]

STAUNTON — It's 76 degrees in Baghdad today. There's not a snowflake in sight. And there's certainly no such thing as a silent night.

But there is a Christmas story that began here not too long ago, when one group of Marines led by a young corporal from Staunton enjoyed a taste of Christmas, thanks to the generosity of a group of strangers from a snow-covered town in Virginia.

A very well-read group of strangers.

As a senior quarterback, Jon Taylor led the Riverheads High School Gladiators to their first Group A, Division 1 state championship in 2000 to cap a 14-0 season.

Since August, he's led the 3rd Batallion, 6th Marines, on a tour across the cities and deserts of Iraq.

This Christmas will mark Taylor's first ever spent away from his family. He and his wife, Jennifer, have a baby on the way, due in February. Their first wedding anniversary was Sunday.

He's on the other side of the world, missing all of it.

"It's our third deployment, but this one's different," a stoic Jennifer Taylor said from her home in Danville, after introducing her husband to the new baby in her belly via Webcam.

But this story took a happier turn recently.

A while back, Taylor's mother, Cindy, stopped by the Staunton public library to check e-mails from her son. Staff members there took an interest in her son's story.

The library has a tradition — each year, they "adopt" someone by buying Christmas presents for them. When they heard about Cindy Taylor's son, and the Marines serving with him, the library went above and beyond their call of duty.

They adopted his entire unit.

Thirty library employees chipped in to mail boxes of candy, cards, Nerf balls, books (they are librarians, after all), toothbrushes, toothpaste and hand cleaner to 10 very grateful Marines. The boxes arrived in Iraq on Dec. 5.

"Everybody grabbed a hold of this project, probably like we haven't grabbed a hold of anything in quite a while," library assistant Steve Tabscott said.

Cindy Taylor, who checks her e-mail account at the library every day, was overjoyed at the unexpected shipment.

"I just cried," she said. "I thought it was wonderful."

So did Jon Taylor, who responded by e-mail last week from a base in the city of Al Qaim.

"You should have seen it," he wrote. "They had to bring an extra Hummer on the convoy because there were so many."

Comforts from home are few and far between in Iraq, he said.

"It's really nice to get packages from people who you don't even know. It shows us that the effort we put into our job is, in a way, appreciated."

Taylor likely will be monitoring insurgent hideouts and falling asleep to the sound of incoming rounds until his unit returns in April.

But this Christmas, as they deck their tents with bits and pieces of Christmas memories from back home, he and the Marines of his unit know they have 30 secret Santas in Staunton, even if they don't know their names.

Originally published December 12, 2005

11th MEU Marines, sailors learn ship life is hard work, plenty of play

ABOARD THE USS PELELIU (Dec. 12, 2005) -- Many Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit are getting their first taste of ship life during Composite Training Unit Exercise here off the coast of Camp Pendleton Nov. 29-Dec. 14.


Submitted by: 11th MEU
Story Identification #: 2005121211215
Story by Cpl. Ruben D. Calderon

For some Marines and sailors, the two-week-long COMPTUEX is not only an excellent opportunity for them to receive valuable training in their job field, it is also a good opportunity for them to smoothly transition to ship life prior to their six month deployment this winter.

"It eases the culture shock and mentally prepares the Marines for what's ahead and makes them more confident," said 1st Sgt. Kenneth M. Hasbrouck, company first sergeant, Company C, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 11th MEU, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Some Marines like Lance Cpl. Christopher K. Morgan-Riess, tactical data network specialist, communication platoon, 11th MEU, appreciate being able to get a dress rehearsal prior to the upcoming deployment. Morgan-Riess came aboard ship for the first time in November, and what he found was that just getting around within the ship was a challenge.

"I kept getting lost. Finding your way around was virtually impossible," said Morgan-Riess. "I would memorize the path from my workspace to my berthing area (sleeping quarters) and a couple other places I needed to get to and not travel outside of that small section of the ship. Each day I would try to learn a different way to get around a new section of the ship," said Morgan-Riess. "There are still sections of the ship that I will never ever get to see."

This is a common problem for Marines and sailors who are new to ship life. When new Marines arrive on ship, some look like a mouse in a maze looking for the cheese.
Corporal Sinclair L. Harrell, administration clerk, command element, 11th MEU, recalls his first time on ship last year in which he felt like that mouse in the maze.

"We had to get to our berthing area on the opposite side of the ship," said Harrell. Harrell and the Marines with him were carrying their fully loaded packs, laptops and other personal items, he said.

"'Go three decks up, take the next two rights, then a left, then go right,'" someone told Harrell when he asked for directions. For Harrell, it was as if someone had given him directions in the woods and in the dark.

"We ended up getting lost, and no matter which way we went, we always ended up in the hangar bay," said Harrell with a laugh. Harrell said it took him a couple of days to learn his way to work. "I felt relieved that I knew my way back to my workspace in the event of a man-overboard drill," said Harrell.

During this training period and a third one in January, Marines and sailors will learn about the many unique safety rules and regulations aboard ship. They will also learn important emergency procedures like what to do during man overboard, space evacuation, abandon ship and other drills.

According to MSgt. Kevin Bonds, headquarters commandant, command element, 11th MEU, Marines and sailors are also learning how to work with their Navy brothers and sisters. They are learning that they have to earn their keep by performing collateral duties such as "mess duty," cooking and cleaning in the galley or cafeteria, and to perform other cleaning, maintenance, general labor and guard duties while aboard the ship.

Life on a ship is much like life in any household, said Bonds. "The Navy and Marine Corps are like a family, and just like families pitch in to take care of their homes, everyone pitches in to clean and maintain the ship," said Bonds.

One of the most important things Marines learn about ship life is that when the work is done, there are plenty of things to do to have fun. That is, if they choose to venture out of their comfort zone, said Stephanie Hess, fun boss, U.S.S. Peleliu. "When most Marines arrive, after work they tend to keep to themselves in the berthing areas," said Hess.

"We play a lot of cards, play a lot of video games, watch movies," said Lance Cpl. David C. Crump, motor transport mechanic, BLT 1/4. "I think I've watched every movie in my collection about 4 times," said Crump, who came aboard ship for the first time in November.

It's Hess' job to try to draw Marines like Crump out from the berthing areas. To do this, Hess and her office staff have put together a fun list of activities and events that rival any Marine Corps Community Service event list back home.

Hess said the Navy spares no expense to make sure the Marines and sailors relax and have fun. Hess' office is located inside the ship's gym, a state of the art facility that is one of the best in the Navy and looks just like any gym back on base.

The fun boss also offers Marines a wide array of board games, video games, Xboxes, PlayStation consoles, DVD movies and players. Each week, the calendar is filled with activities such as Karaoke Night, Poker Night, video game tournaments, contests and movie nights complete with popcorn.

As part of an agreement between the Navy and the movie industry, "once we deploy, Marines and sailors will get to see movies before or just as they are seen in theaters," said Hess.

Hess and her staff had a free holiday party raffle on Sunday, in which $10,000 worth of prizes was raffled off. Each Marine and sailor received a free ticket and a chance to win. Prizes included a plasma screen television, iPods, $1,700 in gift certificates that can be redeemed online and dozens of other prizes.

The MEU's big winners were members of BLT 1/4. R Battery's HM3. Justin A. Hradil, hospital corpsman, and Cpl. Bill L. Gainey, radio operator, won a laptop computer and a Nintendo GameCube respectively. Maj. Matthew T. Morrissey, operations officer, won a Sony PlayStation Portable video game system.

The Marines and sailors of the 11th MEU have one more at-sea training period in January before they deploy in support of the Global War on Terrorism. This training period and upcoming deployment are expected be rewarding, but stressful events.

Hess said the best way to combat stress and get your mind off work is to have fun and exercise. If Marines and sailors only learn one thing during these training exercises, it should be "that time goes by a lot faster when you’re having a good time."

December 10, 2005

N.C. Marine Barracks Helps Wounded Troops

From the first day of boot camp, a Marine is part of a team, rarely serving or fighting alone. That ends when a Marine is severely injured in combat and rushed from the field for medical care. Those without family to care for them at home can find themselves alone with no place to go.

Different pictures at each ext. link




"They don't even have uniforms," said Lt. Gen. James Amos, commander of the II Marine Expeditionary Force. "A lot of their stuff was left in Iraq or lost."

To give recovering Marines daily support and companionship, the military created the Wounded Warrior Support Section, a renovated barracks at North Carolina's Camp Lejeune, the Corps' largest base on the East Coast.

There is nothing else like it in the Marine Corps, Amos said. Some battalion commanders were initially reluctant about the idea, he said, but the experience of wounded Marines living and recovering with each other has proven to aid their healing process.

"Some of these kids have seen things that few humans will see in life," said Amos, whose commands include more than 47,000 Marines and sailors. "When you're in a huge gun battle, you come away with thoughts and memories. Some may struggle with it. What we found is these kids need to talk to one another."

Unlike a typically spartan Marine barracks, the new facility has the look and feel of an all-suite motel, with carpeted hallways, separate bedrooms and sitting areas, and door handles and bathroom bars designed specifically for injured residents ADVERTISEMENT

"If they went to a regiment (barracks), there's nothing there for them," said Gunnery Sgt. Ken Barnes, the top noncommissioned officer on support section. "It's four walls and a bed. Here, they've got a little bit more. But the number one thing is we've got Marines here who understand what it was to be wounded, because they all were."

In previous wars, most of those severely wounded in combat would have left the military. But leaps in medical technology mean that even amputees can return to the battlefield, Barnes said, citing a Marine lieutenant with a prosthetic leg now leading a combat unit in Iraq. Up to 30 percent of those wounded will remain in the Corps, Amos said.

Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, 955 Marines from the II Marine Expeditionary Force have been wounded in combat, including more than 200 troops from Lejeune that deployed in March.

Most of the 200 are with parents at home or in hospitals around the country, Amos said, but others are without an obvious place to convalesce.

Lance Cpl. Johnny Burra, 19, of Rochester, N.Y., is among the about a dozen Marines living in the new barracks, arriving after shrapnel ripped through his legs and broke two bones in his left foot in September.

"This place is awesome because first and foremost you're with other people who have been wounded and people who just came back from Afghanistan and Iraq," Burra said. "We talk about getting wounded, we talk about Iraq or Afghanistan. We talk about back home, pretty much everything."

He also said he appreciates the ramps that make it easier for him to get around on crutches, as well as dependable transportation to the base hospital, chow halls and base shopping mall.

It cost about $50,000 to upgrade the barracks on the ground floor of a building near Amos' headquarters on the New River.

Computers ready for Internet surfing greet incoming Marines in one room, while in another plush recliners and sofas line walls in view of a big-screen television.

In each suite, furniture donated by businesses in nearby Jacksonville creates a homelike setting. All have TVs with cable and telephone _ in normal barracks Marines have to set up those services themselves _ as well as a DVD player, a mini-refrigerator and microwave.

The Corps has plans to open a similar facility at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and at other bases. Being in such a barracks "makes the time easier," said Lance Cpl. Ryan Cahill, 19, of Baton Rouge, La., who was wounded in the leg by a roadside bomb.

"It's a big change from being with people you've been with the past year," Cahill said, "to all of a sudden not seeing them at all."

December 9, 2005

Storm-relief medals authorized

The Joint Staff has authorized the award of the Humanitarian Service Medal and Armed Forces Service Medal to soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and members of the Coast Guard — active, Guard and Reserve — who participated in relief operations for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.


By Jim Tice
Times staff writer

The Humanitarian Service Medal is authorized for those who supported immediate relief operations in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas — east of 96 degree west longitude — from Aug. 29 to Oct. 13, 2005.

The Armed Forces Service Medal is authorized for those who provided, or are providing, direct support to relief efforts for 30 consecutive days, or 60 nonconsecutive days anywhere in the United States from Aug. 27, 2005, to Feb. 27, 2006.

Service members who are awarded the Humanitarian Service Medal may also qualify for the Armed Forces Service Medal, provided their direct support occurred after the qualifying dates for the HSM.

The military has categorized disaster relief operations for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as one operation.

Army commanders in the grade of colonel and above are authorized to determine award eligibility. Permanent orders are not required to award the medals, but commanders should notify supporting personnel divisions or companies so that soldier personnel qualification records can be updated.

MarineParents.com Inc Care Package Project

We currently ship over 700 care packages each month to Marines stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our database grows daily as Marines send us names of comrades who are not receiving mail or care packages. You can help get care packages of needed items to these Marines! There are several ways that you can help out.

Because the Department of Defense (DoD) does not support adopt-a-soldier programs, we have a program which ships care packages only to addresses which have been supplied by Marines or family members of combat deployed Marines. To comply with the DoD policy, we do not share overseas mailing addresses with any third party, but WE'LL SHIP THE PACKAGES for you!

LCpl Nicholas Larson
The MarineParents.com, Inc. Care Package Project was started in Memory of LCpl. Nicholas Larson who was killed in action in Fallujah, Iraq on November 9, 2004. The Larson family graciously requested donations to MarineParents.com, Inc. in lieu of flowers, with the request that the donations be used to support the Marines in Iraq and their families back home.

In memory of LCpl. Larson, this project was begun on December 5, 2004 to honor and support all of our Marines who serve and their Marine families waiting at home. The Care Package Project is lovingly served by the many volunteers at MarineParents.com, with care package items and shipping funds donated by individuals and businesses around the United States.

A Little bit about how the Care Package Project Works
Contents for care packages and funding for shipping care packages to combat deployed Marines can be donated by individuals, companies or organizations. To donate items, click here. To donate funding, click here.

Donated contents for care packages are shipped to one of our shipping facilities where the items are inspected, sorted, and packaged for delivery.

MarineParents.com, Inc. volunteers will complete shipping forms, customs forms, and ship the packages via USPS Priority Mail to the Marine's overseas address.

Family members of combat deployed Marines can request a MarineParents.com, Inc. Care Package to be sent to their Marine.

We will ship one package per Marine per month during the Marine's deployment cycle as long as the donated inventory can maintain the requests.

Marine's overseas addresses are private and will not be given out to third parties.

Helping the combat deployed Marines and their families waiting at home is the mission of the LCpl. Nicholas Larson and MarineParents.com, Inc. Care Package Program.

We stand by our Marines and their families. If you are a family member, please let us know how we can help you. This web site offers a vast amount of information and support to help with deployment.

Quotes from Members/Marines touched by this Program

"We want to thank you so much for the package you sent to our son in Iraq. He said it is like Christmas when he gets a package over there. May God bless each and every heart and hand that prepared these care packages and those who work behind the scenes as well."
James and Ann, Marine Parents from Virginia, April, 2005

"Just heard from my son in Iraq who recently received the Girl Scout cookies from Marine Parents. This definitely brightened his day and I thank you so much for this. God bless you all for the wonderful work you are doing to support our troops."
From Dorothy, Marine Mom, March, 2005

"Thank you so much for the care package. I shared the package with all the Marines in my platoon. We all appreciated the support you have given us. Hearing from people that care makes us work even harder to make Peace. Thank you, Semper Fi."

To actually SEE the handwritten thank you's from Marines who have received our care packages see: http://www.marineparentsinc.com/carepkg-project-marines.asp

Request a Package for YOUR Marine
Once again we stress that this address will NOT be given out to third parties.

How YOU can Help

Several Options are available to help out with this wonderful Care Package Project

1) Become a Care Package Sponsor
When you sponsor a Care Package, we'll put your name inside the care package(s) received by the Marine(s). You can select a one-time donation for 1-100 Marines, or a 6-month commitment for 1-100 Marines. http://www.marineparentsinc.com/cp2200.asp

2) Donate to the Shipping Cost
The cost of shipping care packages to combat deployed Marines is $7.70 per package. 740 Care Packages were shipped out in October, & 730 Care Packages sent in August for more statistics, photos, and past event information see: http://www.marineparentsinc.com/carepkg-statistics.asp
Your help is needed to fund the shipping costs to get the care packages to the Marines. Thank you for your support!

Donations can be made using PAYPAL http://www.marineparentsinc.com/carepkg-project-donate-shipping.asp , or by sending check or money order to:

MarineParents.com, Inc.
Shipping Funds
P O Box 1115
Columbia, MO 65205-1115

3) Donate Needed Items/Hold a Care Package Drive
If you, your church, club, business, office, or organization held a care package drive or have items you feel the Marines need and would like to donate them for the care packages, let us know!

We would be happy to accept your donation of care package items to send to our Marines via the MarineParents.com, Inc. Care Package Project. All individuals and companies donating items to this project will be recognized on the web site as contributors to this project.

For more on sending items for the Care Package Project see http://www.marineparentsinc.com/carepkg-project-donate-items.asp

Click here for a flyer to help out with your Care Package Drive http://www.marineparentsinc.com/carepkg-project-drive.asp

4) Sending handwritten letters, cards, drawings to a Marine
Each care package includes a card or letter addressed to "Dear Marine". We need cards and letters from you, the American people that support our troops.

Please consider working with your office, school, church or organization to make cards or write letters to include in each package. The Marines are especially touched by homemade cards from children, or letters that let them know what's going on back home: what books, movies, and music are coming out, or what your day-to-day life is like. Or write a letter to let them know what you're doing here at home to support the troops!

Mail letters to:

MarineParents.com, Inc.
P O Box 1115
Columbia, MO 65205-1115

More information on mailing letters:

5) Shop for Care Package Items at Amazon.com!

How it works?
-Visit the link to Amazon.com's MarineParents.com Inc wish list for Marine items
-You'll find only items that are specifically requested by the Marines and/or recommended by MarineParents.com
-Select the item(s) you want to send for Care Packages to the Marines
-Continue shopping from the "Wish List" to total $25 or more in product
-When checking out, select "Free Super Saver Shipping" and "Combine order into one shipment"
-The address to the primary MarineParents.com Shipping Facility is automatically entered for you
-Select the MarineParents.com, Inc. shipping address
-Complete the check-out process using your preferred payment method (all major credit cards are accepted in a secure environment)
-Submit your order
-Your items will be delivered to MarineParents.com, Inc. for sorting and packing for delivery to individual Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan

More info along with the link:

6) Requesting Donations
If you would like to ask friends and neighbors to make a monetary donation by sponsoring care package(s) for 1-100 Marines, we have a single-page printable form that you can print and copy to distribute in your neighborhood, office, church, club or other oranization to encourage your friends to support our troops through the Care Package Project. All donations should be in the form of check or money order and mailed directly to MarineParents.com, Inc. using the address on the form.
Challenge your organization to raise funds for a target number of Marines. Depending on the size of your organization, you may want to target as many as 200 or as few as 25 Marines. Members of your organization should make checks or money orders payable to MarineParents.com, Inc.

All monetary donations receive a written acknowledgement/receipt.

We have a request form available at: http://www.marineparentsinc.com/carepkg-project-req-donations.asp

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our WONDERFUL Contributors. Without their time, donations, and support this wouldn't be possible.
For a list of Contributors please see http://www.marineparentsinc.com/carepkg-contributors.asp

For More information on the care package project itself- http://www.marineparentsinc.com/carepkg-project-default.asp

OR for Frequently Asked Questions about the Care Package Project, please see: http://www.marineparentsinc.com/carepkg-project-faq2.asp

For any questions you have that aren't answered in the FAQ or comments/suggestions please feel free to utilize these options:

Phone: 1-573-449-2003

US Mail:
P O Box 1115
Columbia, MO 65205-1115

Or use the email form at:


College football player hangs up helmet for stethoscope

MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii (Dec. 9, 2005) -- It is often said that nothing is given to a Marine — it is figuratively beat into the psyche of every young man and woman who steps on the yellow footprints at the recruit depots in San Diego or Parris Island, S.C., that they are going to have to earn the title “Marine.”


Submitted by:
MCB Hawaii
Story by:
Computed Name: Sgt. Joe Lindsay
Story Identification #:

The eagle, globe and anchor symbol is the most coveted emblem signifying the transformation from civilian to Marine. It doesn’t come easy. Only individuals who have survived the trial by fire in boot camp or Officer Candidates School rate to wear this symbol of the Corps on their uniform.

But there is also a group of Sailors considered so vital to the Marine Corps mission, and so ingrained in Marine Corps history on the battlefield, that they too are authorized to don the eagle, globe and anchor.

These Sailors are called corpsmen, and they are very often the only difference between life and death for a Marine wounded on the battlefield.

“Corpsmen take care of Marines,” said Lance Cpl. Tyler Weed, a 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, administrative clerk and Iraq veteran who witnessed the bravery of hospital corpsmen firsthand in the battle for Fallujah. “They are out there on the front lines with the Marines, putting their lives on the line to save us, if we get shot up. You’d be hard pressed to find a Marine who has served in battle who doesn’t have the highest respect for corpsmen.”

Weed, a Tacoma, Wash., native, said he has the utmost respect for all corpsmen, but noted that Petty Officer 1st Class Tim Gorman stands out above the rest — literally.

Gorman was recently promoted to his present rank through the Navy’s Combat Meritorious Advancement Program as a result of his exemplary service with 1/3 on their last combat deployment.

He also stands 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighs in the neighborhood of 250 pounds, but carries the weight more like a gladiator than the defensive lineman he was during an All-American high school football career that led to a scholarship to the University of Arizona in Tucson, where Gorman played from 1988 to ‘91.

Today, Gorman said he has no regrets about joining the Navy or the long road that led him there, even though many of his teammates at Arizona and players he knew from other teams went on to play in the NFL.

“We moved 11 different times throughout the country, when I was a kid — as a result of my father’s job at IBM,” explained Gorman, who was born in Queens, N.Y., and attended high school for three years in Southern California before moving once again, this time to New Jersey.

“The hardest move was just before my senior year in high school. In California, I was starting to get recruited by some big name schools. We finished the year undefeated, got a lot of media attention, and played all our games on Friday nights in front of 1,300 screaming fans. In New Jersey, we played on Saturday mornings in front of a couple hundred people, mostly just family and friends.”

Despite the change in scenery, Gorman didn’t fall off the radar with the college football scouts and received a visit from Nebraska’s legendary football coach, Tom Osborne, in addition to being courted by other big-name programs such as Oklahoma, USC, Florida and Florida State.

In the end, Gorman signed a letter of intent to play football at Arizona on a full-ride athletic scholarship. During his collegiate career, Gorman played in the Copper Bowl and the Aloha Bowl. A photograph of him raising his helmet in jubilation after he and his fellow Wildcats won a game has become part of Arizona football lore. The photo hangs in the lobby of Tucson’s Embassy Suites Hotel, flanked on both sides by two other illustrious University of Arizona athletes, former NBA All-Star Sean Elliott and former MLB All-Star and gold-glove winner Kenny Lofton.

“It’s crazy, but I really can’t remember what game that photo was taken at,” admitted Gorman. “It was just one of those surreal moments that got captured in time.”

Gorman’s football career ended before he had a chance to test the NFL’s waters, when he was involved in a car accident that nearly took his and the lives of three of his friends.

“It was a miracle none of us got killed,” said Gorman, reflecting on that summer night nearly 15 years ago. “After the crash, I kind of had an epiphany of sorts, and decided I needed to find other things in my life besides football.”

Shortly thereafter, Gorman left school just a few credits shy of his degree in exercise and sports science and embarked on an entrepreneurial career that saw him buy, manage and sell nightclubs all over the country.

“I started moving around a lot, again,” commented Gorman, who mentioned that he still considers Tucson his adopted home, but now subscribes more to the philosophy that home is wherever you hang your hat.

“I got married to Patti — we’ve been married almost 12 years now, and we have a son, Zakkary, 11. We just started investing in and managing all these different clubs, first in Tucson, then in Georgia, then Texas and finally Virginia. After six or seven years of that, I just decided that I’d had enough of the business. I’d always sort of talked about joining the military, and one day I had some Navy brochures laying around that I was looking through. Patti just came up to me and said, ‘Either do it, or don’t do it. Just go down and join right now, or put that stuff away forever.’ So, I went down and joined.”

Nearly 30 at the time, Gorman was one of the oldest recruits at basic training, but was unfazed.

“I’ve always been one to look ahead, not behind,” commented Gorman. “I never got caught up in that, ‘If I’d only joined 10 years earlier, I’d be so much further along in my career right now,’ type mindset that a lot of older Sailors get trapped in. I just said to myself, ‘This is where I’m at now, so make the best of it.’”

And make the best of it he did.

Just five years into his career, Gorman is now holding a rank that often takes longer for the average Sailor to attain.

“I served with HM1 (petty officer first class, hospital corpsman) Gorman in Iraq,” said Navy Lt. Aric Aghayan, 1/3 battalion surgeon and a native of Overland Park, Kan. “His experience, leadership and maturity was a great asset to us over there and continues to be here. He’s an excellent corpsman. You don’t need to look any farther than his promotion through the Combat Meritorious Advancement Program to see that.”

“Plus, he’s one big dude,” added Aghayan, jokingly. “So nobody messes with us.”

According to Petty Officer 3rd Class Darian “Doc” Holiday, a 1/3 hospital corpsman and Iraq veteran, Gorman is one of the most reliable and hardworking corpsmen he has ever seen.

“If he’s not the person to go to, I wouldn’t know who else would be,” admitted the Chinle, Ariz. native. “HM1 Gorman is extremely dependable and can be counted on to be there for the Marines. But he’s also there for the other corpsmen, too, when we need advice.”

According to Gorman, when it comes to giving advice, nobody gives it better than his wife, Patti.

“She’s got that ‘tough love’ thing going on,” chuckled Gorman. “I’m glad for it though. She has supported me throughout our marriage and never more so than during the constant deployments I seem to make.”

Indeed, after receiving orders to Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, from his previous duty station at the Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Gorman has spent most of his time deployed either aboard ship in Okinawa, Japan, as part of the Unit Deployment Program, or to Iraq. He is currently slated to deploy with 1/3 again on their upcoming combat deployment — this time to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

“I volunteered to go to Afghanistan, because taking care of these guys is what I love to do,” said Gorman. “The Marines in 1/3 are amazing. I saw guys get shot in Iraq and then just laugh about it afterwards. I’m talking these Marines are crazy brave. I saw other Marines not let anyone know of their wounds for days so that they could stay with their men. And of course, I saw some Marines die. The level of courage all these Marines possess is hard to fathom sometimes. These men in 1/3 are the bravest of our generation, and wherever they go, I’m gonna go. I’m a corpsman by trade and a Lava Dog by heart.”

Combat Vehicle Operators Course saves lives

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.(Dec. 9, 2005) -- According to Pentagon officials, the leading cause of non-combat deaths in Iraq involve vehicles and can be tolled up to a lack of training, experience, common sense or, in hostile situations, the lack of knowing the proper standard operating procedures while serving in a combat zone. The Combat Vehicle Operator’s Course hopes to improve that statistic.


Submitted by:
MCB Camp Lejeune
Story by:
Computed Name: Cpl. Matthew K. Hacker
Story Identification #:

The CVOT is a refresher course designed to give motor transport operators more confidence and experience to better them as they venture on deployments in different environments, according to Gunnery Sgt. Robert E. Walston, the staff non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the CVOT Program at the Motor Vehicle Incidental Driver’s School here.

The program’s academics and applications instilled on Camp Lejeune are two-fold, according to Walston.

The first part of the program is conducted in a classroom setting with five periods of instruction focusing on detailed techniques for various situations both in and out of a combat zone.

The first class centers on being able to properly check, service and maintain the Marine’s weapons, communication devices and vehicle prior to operation. They are also taught the fundamentals of driving with night-vision goggles.

Class two focuses on vehicle dynamics for armored vehicles. Most Humvees are operating with the new Marine Armored Kits, which provides a steel shell around vital parts of the vehicle.
Unfortunately, the extra weight demands for different driving and handling techniques in a plethora of situations.

The third class deals with how to react to unusual terrain and adverse driving techniques for something as uncontrolable as inclement weather or as dangerous as a firefight or improvised explosive device detonation. The Marines are also taught how to react to a ‘whiteout.’ The term whiteout refers to a Marine wearing night-vision goggles who temporarily loses his vision due to a bright light.

Next, the students are taught how to operate a vehicle in restricted terrain such as crossing bridges or canal, driving down narrow roads or navigating through a congested, urban environment.

The final period of instruction deals with post-mishap procedures, vehicle recovery and passenger extraction. They are instructed on how to properly extract a Marine from a vehicle that’s been submerged in water for instance, both in and out of a combat environment. What to do when a vehicle gets a flat tire or needs to be serviced while in combat is also addressed.

After the classroom instruction culminates, the students are put to the test where they are expected to utilize their knowledge to conduct a convoy operation in the Greater Sandy Run Training Area near Holly Ridge, N.C.

The convoy begins at the school and ends at the GSRTA where the Marines will train in an obstacle course, according to Walston.

The obstacle course could also be referred to as a confidence course, because it is meant to give the Marines a combat mindset and prepare them for combat.

The course focuses on the application of what they learned during the classroom and provides obstacles such as bridges, canals, hills, ditches, bodies of water and urban environments for them to train in, both day and night.

“The obstacle course is a confidence course in every sense of the word,” said Walston. “The course we’ve got setup runs Marines through situations they never thought they’d be in. It’s gives them an idea as to what it’s like to handle their vehicle in an adverse environment, while crossing a bridge or creeping over a narrow pathway. I don’t know of a better way to build confidence.”

The course is primarily for staff non-commissioned officers to provide unit leaders with proper knowledge on the subject so they may be properly trained to instruct their individual Marines at their units.

Overall, the course teaches Marines how to handle themselves in various situations they may encounter in combat. It helps them build their confidence with the vehicles and themselves so they do not panic if a dangerous situation ensues. It also keeps them up-to-date with the most recent standard operating procedures for vehicular convoys in Iraq, so they may know everything they need to in order to save lives and complete their mission.

Ops Chief, RP recount days in recruit training

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq(Dec. 9, 2005) -- On Nov. 10, 1992, two young men found themselves standing on the yellow footprints together aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C. Now, more than 13 years later they reunited in Iraq for the first time since graduating recruit training. (5/14 & 8th Comm Marines)


Submitted by:
II Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD)
Story by:
Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Josh Cox

Story Identification #:

Staff Sgt. Richard Guichardo and Petty Officer 2nd Class Gregory S. Knight completed recruit training in the same platoon, and are both currently serving here.

“We weren’t rack mates, but we were right across from one another,” said Knight, recounting the first days of his career in the Marine Corps.

“We were right in an area no more than two racks away from each other,” Guichardo continued.

After graduating recruit training, Knight and Guichardo attended Marine Combat Training at Camp Geiger, N.C., at the same time but were in separate platoons. The two went their separate ways after the training, and both have had unique careers since.

Knight, a Bowman, S.C., native, became an administrative clerk and was assigned to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., where he worked in the chaplain’s office on station. After working with the chaplain, Knight decided to become a religious program specialist in the Navy in 1994.

“If I could have stayed in the Marine Corps and done the job as a [religious program specialist], I probably would’ve,” he said.

Knight, 33, spent the next several years at Naval Air Station Meridian, Miss., where he served as an RP and met his wife, who was also serving in the military.

“I met my wife there in Meridian and she was just coming into the service,” he said. “I decided to get out [of the Navy] and become a dependent for a while, and follow her around.”

In 1997, Knight moved to Washington, D.C., with his wife where he worked as an accountant for a company there.

“I’ve had some interesting careers on the civilian side,” he said. “I worked in the space industry.”

Knight said he had the chance to meet a lot of interesting people while working in Washington, including astronauts.

When Knight’s wife was reassigned, they moved to San Antonio, where he worked in the furniture manufacturing business and in the insurance industry.

“I currently work for a major insurance and financial institution there,” he said.

Through the years, Knight has earned a college degree, and in 2004 he came back into the Navy Reserve as an RP to pursue a commission to become an officer.

Today, Knight is serving here with 5th Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, where he supports and assists the chaplain and camp chapel.

Guichardo, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native, became a supply clerk after MCT and was assigned to Camp Lejeune, N.C., during his first tour in the Marine Corps.

“After being [at Camp Lejeune] for about three years, I got orders to go to Japan,” he said. “I was there for 16 months.”

Guichardo, 38, received orders to Camp Lejeune again and acquired a new billet rather than a supply position.

“I was an instructor at the Corporal’s Course,” he said. “Then in 1999, I submitted my package for Drill Instructor’s School, and off I went.

“I got off the drill field in January of 2003, and went back to Camp Lejeune,” he said.

Guichardo is currently serving here as an operations chief with Charlie Company, 8th Communication Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Headquarters Group, II MEF (FWD).

Knight and Guichardo didn’t initially recognize each other here.

“We ran into each other in the chapel,” said Guichardo.

“It took us about three times running into one another before we finally figured it out,” said Knight.

According to Knight, he and Guichardo finally made the connection while dining and conversing at the dining facility. They were talking about when and where they attended recruit training, and that’s when everything clicked.

Knight and Guichardo chatted about their former drill instructors and their unique military careers.

“When you go through something like Marine Corps boot camp…it’s something that you do with your buddies and with the people you meet,” said Knight. “You build a lasting friendship with people when you go through experiences like that.”

“I think from here on out, our friendship is stronger,” said Guichardo. “We will probably stay in touch, even if it is just an e-mail.”

“It makes me feel good too,” said Knight. “I am proud of him; I’m glad to see that one of my buddies has made it up to the big time. We’ll have one big party when we get back to Camp Lejeune.”

Please feel free to publish this story or any of the accompanying photos. If used, please give proper credit to the writer/photographer, and contact us at: [email protected] so we can update our records.

Marines, sailors search 'difficult' valleys

JALALABAD, Afghanistan - 1st Lt. Ryan B. Cohen, platoon commander, and a radio operator call in artillery support after being attacked by anti- coalition militia forces during Operation Sorkh Khar.


December 9, 2005

Sgt. Robert M. Storm

MCB Hawaii

JALALABAD, Afghanistan -- Marines and sailors of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, III Marine Expeditionary Force attacked to disrupt anti-coalition militias during Operation Sorkh Khar (Red Donkey) from Nov. 12 through Nov. 22 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

In the battalion-wide operation Marines, soldiers and sailors teamed with the Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army to enter three separate valleys in a massed effort. The forces established vehicle checkpoints to cordon the areas and prevent the enemy from fleeing. The three valleys, Korengal, Matin and Dewagal (ChowKay), are notorious for enemy activity against coalition forces.

"This is what we do. We train hard as hell, and then we come out here and do whatever we have need to do to find the enemy," said Sgt. Andrew K. Nguyen, a tube-launched optically-tracked, wire-guided missileman from Corsicana, Texas. "It's a good thing when we can come out here and do our part against terrorism."

The onset of winter and the accompanying severe temperature drop usually forces the ACM to limit its activity. Since Marines and sailors are used to operating in freezing temperatures, they capitalized on their capabilities and attacked the insurgents when they were most vulnerable.

"The weather was not as much of a factor as we anticipated. The Marines and sailors of the battalion were well-prepared, and we didn't spend as much time above the snowline as we were ready to -- primarily because the enemy was not up there," said Lt. Col. J.E. Donnellan, commanding officer of 2nd Bn., 3rd Marines, from Old Bridge, N.J.

Marines detained six enemy personnel and recovered five enemy weapons caches by conducting actions against known enemy ambush sites. After the Marines shifted from cordon and containment operations, they took to the offense by conducting searches and finally by attacking the ACM forces as they attempted to respond. In several situations the enemy did not go quietly. Nine attacks were made against the "Island Warriors" involving small-arms fire or rocket propelled grenades.

"We were attacked, and we relayed a radio message for indirect fire support. The Marines fired their machineguns and M-16s to quickly gain fire superiority and keep the enemy from moving, then it was just a matter of letting artillery do its work," said 1st Lt. Ryan B. Cohen, platoon commander.

"Overall, Operation Sorkh Khar was a big success. The 'Island Warriors' gathered intelligence about the terrain, weather and enemy that will benefit them in future operations in Kunar Province," Donnellan said. "I'm incredibly proud of the way the battalion performed these past 10 days. It really taxed our flexibility at a lot of levels, from containing the enemy to going on the offensive. The spirit of the Marines and sailors is what enables us to do that."

Manassas native keeps Marines connected in Iraq

CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, AR RAMADI, Iraq (Dec. 9, 2005) -- Corporal Justin A. Dagostin keeps the 2nd Marine Division connected. The 23-year-old Manassas, Va., native maintains the communications equipment that allows Marines here in western Iraq to coordinate the complex military operations needed to bring stability to the province. (2nd Mar HQ BN- Comm Co)


Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 2005129232815
Story by Sgt. Ryan S. Scranton

Conducting military operation in an area nearly the size of North Carolina requires thousands of people organizing an endless list of tasks to be executed in unison. An effort which Dagostin said he feels like he plays a major part. Dagostin said without communications there would just be silence, referring to the countless radio, satellite and e-mail transmissions that travel back and forth through the equipment that he and his fellow Marines maintain.

Dagostin and other Marines from Communications Company operate the satellite dishes are the main conduit for all internet, phone and e-mail traffic on and off the camp here.

Dagostin is also Headquarters Battalion’s cytological technician. He tracks, maintains and repairs hundreds of pieces of encrypted electronics gear used by the various units throughout the Al Anbar province. He spends his mornings at his work-bench fixing broken equipment sent to him for repair.

“On an average day I spend about five hours working on equipment,” Dagostin said. “It’s pretty sensitive gear so it’s always breaking.”

Dagostin takes his job seriously. In meticulous fashion he checks and rechecks every piece before it is sent back to the Marines who use it. Dagostin is consciences about his work and the effect it could have on other Marines if he lets needed repairs slip by undetected.

“I always make sure the gear is one-hundred percent before I send it out the door,” Dagostin said. “I know that if a piece of gear is bad it could cost the lives of other Marines or soldiers, I’d rather spend an extra ten minutes working on the gear to make sure it’s perfect.”

Dagostin said he learned a lot since arriving in Iraq eight months ago and credits much of his electronics expertise to the time he has spent working here. Although Dagostin is formally schooled in electronics and is well read on the subject, he learned much of what he knows through trial and error.

“A lot of the gear out here is Army gear so I’ve had to do a lot of research and hands on testing to see what works” Dagostin said. “I do my research then I see what I can do to trouble shoot the gear.”

Although he has learned plenty in the Marines, he plans to further his education by pursuing a degree in network administration and computer programming. He graduated from De Smet Jesuit High School in 2001, a catholic college preparatory school where he said 89 percent of the graduates went on to attend college.

Dagostin didn’t follow the same path his friends did because he wanted to experience something different. He said the events of September 11, 2001 had a huge impact on him joining the Marines and also received encouragement from his older brother who is an officer in the Army.

“I wanted to do something to make a difference in other people’s lives and in my own life as well.” Dagostin said. “I thought the Marine Corps would be a great way to do that because I heard a lot of good things about it.”

Dagostin feels he has made an impact on the people here and feels like he helped write a new chapter in history.

“I think we’ve made a lot of progress at helping these people get back on their feet.” Dagostin said. “It will be cool someday to look back through the history books and say I was a part of this and I helped do that.”

Toll Grows For Northwest Soldiers In Iraq

CENTRALIA, Wash. - A U.S. Marine from Centralia, Washington, who was profiled on the official U.S. Marines' website, has been confirmed killed in Iraq.


VIDEO at ext link

By John Capell
and KATU.com Web Staff

Corporal Joseph P. Bier, 22, was killed December 7 when an improvised explosive device detonated under the humvee he was riding in during military operations near the Iraqi city of Ar Ramadi.

Three other Marines were in the Humvee with Bier, including a soldier with Portland ties who was severely wounded and is now in a German hospital.

The two other Marines in the humvee were also severely wounded.

Cpl. Bier is featured on the Marine's website, where he is profiled as being a machine gunner.

Read the profile on the U.S. Marine's website

According to text on the site, Bier sought a transfer to Iraq and was looking forward to duty in the conflict after he had served stateside in a security detachment.

After a three year wait, Bier was transferred to Iraq after receiving additional training for urban operations in Ar Ramadi.

Three other Marines were riding in the humvee with Cpl. Bier at the time of the attack. All three suffered leg injuries that required double amputations.

Among them was Cpl. Neil Frustaglio, who shipped out to Iraq this past summer after serving at nearby Bangor Naval Base.

He was due for an honorable discharge just one month after his deployment.

He is currently in a German hospital, awaiting transport back to medical facilities in the United States, according to a letter KATU received from a former Marine and friend of Frustaglio.

The letter also states that Frustaglio's fiancee is in Portland, and that he spent much of his time in the city.

An account has been set up at Washington Mutual for the benefit of Cpl. Frustaglio.

3/7 Marines discover weapons caches during Operation Machete

AR RAMADI, Iraq (Nov. 20, 2005) -- Marines from 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, with support from the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion and the local Iraqi Army unit, unearthed the largest cache of hidden insurgent weapons found by the unit near the Euphrates River Nov. 20.


Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 200512923133
Story by Cpl. Shane Suzuki

Operation Machete was a battalion-wide operation incorporating all four infantry companies and took place over four days. Early operations by Weapons Company and Scout Sniper Platoon, along with the improvised explosive device hunters of the Army’s Task Force Ironhawk, helped clear the way for the main effort of Machete, Company I.

“It’s like stirring up a bee’s nest,” said Lt. Col. Roger Turner, the battalion’s commanding officer. “We are going out there to make them adjust to us, instead of us reacting to them. If we are going out there to draw fire from them, we are going to do it on our terms.”

Operation Machete began in earnest the morning of Nov. 20 when Company I escorted and provided security for the combat engineers during their sweep of a large field near the Euphrates River in the northeast corner of Ar Ramadi. The Marines on site soon realized they were onto something special when, almost as soon they arrived at the search areas, engineers literally began tripping over hidden insurgent weapons caches.

“I knew going out there that we would find something, but not that much,” said Lance Cpl. Jarrell Jones, a 22-year-old combat engineer from Lufkin, Texas. “When we first got to the search area, I actually tripped over a 155 (millimeter round.) We eventually found a lot of weapons – AK’s, RPG’s, and a lot of (improvised explosive device) materials. It was definitely the biggest find I’ve been a part of.”

After Jones’s accidental find, the Marines began sweeping the area with their metal detectors and soon discovered barrels and bags full of rifles, artillery shells, grenades, books full of insurgent propaganda, detonation devices, black masks and other weapons and tools of the insurgency.

“I figure we stopped a pretty big attack,” said Lance Cpl. Kyle Waldy, a combat engineer from Topeka, Kansas. “They had a lot of weapons down there ready to be used. This should put a pretty big delay in their IED-making schemes.”

When the Marines felt they had exhausted the area, they began preparing the evidence for exploitation by Marine Corps intelligence units and for destruction on site. The materials not taken away for evidence were piled on the side of the road and destroyed by the engineers with C-4 explosives. The engineers found so many artillery rounds and acetylene tanks, both used for IEDs, they had to perform three controlled detonations at the first search area.

“Most of the ordnance we blew in place,” said Waldy. “There was so much of it we ended up using approximately 45 to 50 sticks of C-4 to blow it all up.”

After disposing of the explosives, the engineers began sweeping towards their next search area where they continued to find buried caches full of artillery rounds, assault rifles and ammunition. While the engineers were sweeping the northern half of the fields, Iraqi Army soldiers worked ahead of the engineers to clear any enemies or potential threats before the search party arrived. With the assistance of some Company I Marines, the IA soldiers found another cache buried close to the surface that had artillery rounds and empty propane tanks, often used as IEDs.

When the search was called off, the Marines and Iraqi soldiers had found more than 120 artillery rounds, 40 rocket-propelled grenades, 60 assault rifles, and 25 sticks of explosives.

“This is the largest find in more than six months in our area of operations,” said Cpl. Garrett Jaco, a rifleman working as the Company I intelligence representative. “It’s a lot of good stuff. We found IED and insurgent manuals, CD-ROM’s, film, a movie; all of which is very helpful.”

Operations like Machete are rewarding for not only the Marines deployed here, but also good for the people of the city, said 2nd Lt. Anton Sattler, Company I executive officer. The local people know that the more weapons the Marines take out of the hands of the insurgents, the sooner they will have a peaceful and prosperous city.

“I am pretty damn proud to be a part of this,” he said. “It’s great to go out for 14 hours and have something tangible to show for it. All the Marines were tired after the operation, but all of them came back with big smiles on their faces because they know they accomplished something big today. A find this big is going to have an impact, I think. It’s hard to say how big, but we know they are going to miss what we found.”

For the Marines of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, finding caches such as this one can only help the overall mission of bringing stability and freedom to the long oppressed people of Iraq. With elections coming up in mid-December, operations like this let the townspeople know that the Marines and their Iraqi soldiers are making an impact on their lives for the better.

“I think this find will improve the peoples’ confidence in the local government and in our abilities to protect them from the insurgency,” said Sattler. “The people still know that the bad guys are out there, but they don’t have the weapons to attack. This can only help us when election time comes around.”

Combat engineers work with 3/7 to find IEDs

AR RAMADI, Iraq (Dec. 9, 2005) -- Marines from Company C, 1st Combat Engineers Battalion, recently accompanied Combined Anti-Armor Team White on a raid Nov.1 to search local businesses for weapons caches and insurgent information. (3/7 and 1st CEB)


Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 2005129235654
Story by Cpl. Shane Suzuki

This raid was an attempt by the Marines of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment to further increase their presence in the city here and to increase the number of information sources available to the battalion. The engineers’ job during this operation was to use their metal detectors to find buried weapons and to be prepared to breach inaccessible buildings.

“We provide a special element to the search teams,” said Sgt. Elias Gonzalez, combat engineer. “We can identify (improvised explosive device) materials or IEDs themselves. We also have mechanized and urban breaching capabilities if they are needed. However, our primary mission this time was to find any buried caches in or around the designated search area.”

Although the mission came up empty in terms of weapons and IED caches, both Weapons Company and the engineers are optimistic about future raids and what they could mean for the battle here.

“We are available and looking forward to the next one of these,” said Gonzalez. “Missions like this, where we are used to find IEDs and weapons are really important. The more caches we find, the more we impact the enemy’s ability to attack us. We haven’t found any significant caches yet, but we know they are out there.”

During the raid, an assault team from CAAT White secured the area before a search team with the engineers was sent in. They quickly began sweeping the area with their metal detectors and were called a couple of times to open locked cars and safes that were on the premises.

“For the next raid, we are expecting to be used in more open ground,” he said. “Places where the enemy is more likely to hide weapons. If they are there, we will find them.”

Even though every mission doesn’t require the engineers’ support, the Marines of 2nd Platoon, Company C, 1st CEB are ready to help anytime they are needed.

“By working with units like Weapons Company, we are able to get out in the city and really help out,” said Gonzalez. “When we aren’t out on missions we are putting up buildings and working on barrier emplacement to help protect our firm bases. Those jobs are just as important, but we are looking forward to finding weapons and protecting our Marines.”

Marines in Iraq reflect on Thanksgiving Day

CAMP RIPPER, Iraq (Dec. 9, 2005) -- Across Iraq, service members celebrated Thanksgiving Day with turkey served in chow halls, turkey meals-ready-to-eat for those outside of bases, and services commemorating an event older than the United States itself. For some, it was a time to remember their families and friends back home, for others who were recently involved in combat against insurgents during Operation Steel Curtain, it was a moment to reflect and give thanks. (2/1)


Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 2005129231917
Story by Cpl. Ruben D. Maestre

“It’s been a humbling experience out here,” said Lance Cpl. Michael R. Gilio, of Naperville, Ill., an infantry team leader with battle-hardened Company F, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, who turned 21 Thanksgiving Day. “We had a lot of close calls and I’m thankful for not getting hit harder than we did.”

At a transient tent for personnel coming and going here, a group of Marines arriving in Iraq as combat replacements spent their holiday afternoon playing cards on top of a cot. Despite being away from their families, they felt thankful for the company they shared amongst themselves.

“I do miss my family,” said Lance Cpl. Justin W. Hilke, 27, of Fontana, Wis., an infantryman who volunteered to come to Iraq to serve with the quick reaction force under Regimental Combat Team - 2. “But I’ve got these guys to hang out with and talk about whatever I want to share with them.”

Outside the chow hall, where turkey was being served for dinner, Marines with Company F, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, waited quietly as they reflected on their fallen brethren during recent combat operations. For many of them the loss was personal, but many spoke of their resolve to protect each other and they were grateful for those strengthened bonds.

“These are my brothers. No matter what we do, we have each others’ backs,” said Cpl. Jason A. Powell, 27, of Osceola, Iowa, and a squad leader and machine gunner assigned to Company F. “No matter what direction I go, they are out there (outside the base) with me and that’s something to be thankful for.”

CLB-2 Marines clear path to safety

AL ASAD, Iraq (Dec. 9, 2005) -- Many service members in Iraq have stories to explain their proudest moments.
For Chief Warrant Officer 4 Alan J. Clyne, commanding officer of maintenance detachment, and Master Sgt. Scott E. Witmer, maintenance detachment operations chief, both with Combat Logistics Battalion 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), their moment was one to remember.


Submitted by: 2nd Marine Logistics Group
Story Identification #: 2005121025220
Story by Lance Cpl. Joel Abshier

AL ASAD, Iraq (Dec. 9, 2005) -- Many service members in Iraq have stories to explain their proudest moments.
For Chief Warrant Officer 4 Alan J. Clyne, commanding officer of maintenance detachment, and Master Sgt. Scott E. Witmer, maintenance detachment operations chief, both with Combat Logistics Battalion 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), their moment was one to remember.

Clyne and Witmer were providing support for the successful Operation Steel Curtain in cities along the Syrian border at Camp Gannon Nov. 5. They ensured the Marines from 3rd Marine Division, 6th Marine Regiment, were provided with supplies to sustain the fight; ranging from ammunition to chow. But their most appreciated delivery was also the most unexpected.

“We got a call from the 3/6 operations chief saying there were some Marines unable to get out of the city,” Witmer said. “We were told there was no way for humvee’s to reach the Marines.”

The infantry Marines were unfortunately pinned down in an area commonly known to service members at Camp Gannon as “IED Alley.” IED’s, or improvised explosive devices, are the most frequently used weapon against coalition forces here. The name is given to this area because of the abundance of debris, barriers and litter there, making it virtually impassable for most ground vehicles and extremely dangerous for those who do travel the route.

After reviewing a map with the location of the Marines, Witmer and Clyne responded with no hesitation and created a makeshift plan to reach the pinned down squad.

“The idea was to clear a path through IED alley using a bulldozer,” Witmer said. “However, neither of us knew how to operate one.”

Running out of time, Clyne situated himself in the driver’s seat of a mammoth, armored D9 bulldozer and forced himself to learn the controls quickly.

“The big thing was to maintain momentum,” Clyne said. “When you are in a tight situation, sometimes plans go out the window.”

As Clyne hastily maneuvered the foreign controls in the vehicle, Witmer boldly walked in front of the colossus vehicle and guided Clyne to each area that needed clearing.

“[Witmer] was crazy,” Clyne said laughing. “Rounds were flying all over the place and he just kept on going.”

The two steadily plowed through everything standing between them and the trapped Marines, including a number of towering barriers that would have stopped most vehicles in their tracks.
With a newly refined path through the sea of debris, humvee’s with 3/6 were able to reach the surrounded squad to provide heavy fire support, allowing all the Marines to return safely to Camp Gannon.

“I hate to say it but it was a lot of fun,” Clyne admits. “It made us feel that we were part of the fight.”

In the end, Clyne and Witmer took a map, a bulldozer and a little courage and responded selflessly to assist their brothers-in-arms when they were needed most.

“We just drove a D9,” Clyne said with a modest smile. “I just hope nobody finds out I don’t have a license to operate a bulldozer.”

New Movie needs OUR help! Make Peace or Die: The First Days of War in Iraq with 1/5

MOVIE: Make Peace or Die: The First Days of War in Iraq with 1st Battalion 5th Marines

March 2003 - Thousands of troops are massed on the border of Iraq poised for war. Among the first to cross the line of departure is one of the most decorated units in the American military having served since World War I: First Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment. The Marine Corps infantry unit known as “1/5” (one-five) carries to battle a flag with its salient motto, “Make Peace or Die.”

Show your support and help make this film public.


Directed and Edited by Valerian Bennett
Produced by Sgt. Sam Hunter and Jonathan Haug

Footage from embedded reporters, Department of Defense archives, images from the Marines themselves, and interviews conducted by a former member of 1/5 provide a rare glimpse into the souls of America’s warriors. From the first encounter with insurgents at Saddam Canal to dealing with the fog of war at a roadblock on the streets of Baghdad, we witness in these men the essence of conflict, both personal and professional, as seen through the ages. Along the way, 1/5 suffers the first American combat casualty of the war and, in the blink of an eye, forty days and nights of tedious desert living is instantly replaced with an inescapable new reality.

“Make Peace or Die: The First Days of War in Iraq with 1st Battalion 5th Marines” serves as both an intensely personal feature documentary film and a chilling snapshot of the foundation which would give way to continued combat operations in Iraq for years to come.

Visit the website to show support: http://www.makepeaceordie.com/support.html

To contact the filmmakers of "MPoD" regarding press, available rights, preview screeners, or additional information please email:

[email protected]


2006 MarineParents.com, Inc. Conference

Now Announcing! 2006 MarineParents.com, Inc. Conference- location Houston, TX

MarineParents.com, Inc. will hold the 2006 Annual National Conference on Friday-Sunday, April 21-23, 2006 at the Crowne Plaza Houston - Downton in Houston, Texas.

We have a phenomenal lineup of 6 guest speakers, many authors, guests, Marines and Sailors, breakout sessions, and plenty of opportunities to meet and network with other Marine Corps and Navy parents, spouses, families and friends. Join us for a weekend of education, friendship, entertainment, patriotism, and esprit d'corps!

Our keynote speaker will be Fox News contributor LtCol Bill Cowan.

Our guest speakers include LtCol Bryan P. McCoy, Bing West, Michael Phillips, Lt Carey H. Cash, and RAdm Stuart F. Platt. With two pre-conference workshops on Friday and 24 breakout session titles to choose from on Saturday, you won't want to miss this opportunity to Connect & Share with other Marine and Navy parents, spouses, family and friends!

For more information and to register early, see:

See you in Houston in April!

For Discussion please see:

"Wishes from Home" Talking Holiday Card

Need a touching, personalized gift for that special loved one overseas?

Talking Holiday Cards is a GREAT idea!- Mail Call never Sounded so good!

Not only is it a great gift idea to send a touch of home to your hero, but it also support a GREAT cause- $1 from every card comes back to MarineParents.com, Inc. for the care package project and $.50 from each card goes to a wounded soldiers organization.

Holiday cards to send to loved ones overseas that include a photo and a voice recording, is a great personal way to say Merry Christmas, or send holiday wishes. The Marines actually get the photo shipped to them and can hear the voice recording anytime they want to. It plays up to 400 times.

The cards are just $6.99 plus $3.85 shipping to APO/FPO addresses.

-batteries included so it will be ready upon arrival
-10 second record time
-plays 400+ times, so your Marine can hear your loving words over and over again
-includes a hangtab so it can hang from a tree, wall, rack, anywhere!
-protective sleeve included to keep your picture safe

It's a really cool way to give your Marine an awesome photo PLUS your voice message!!

To check it out, visit: http://www.dotphoto.com/GreetingCardLogoV.asp?source=marineparents

More information about the cards and creator as well as his contributions to Marineparents.com see the below link.

Message Board Discussion at: http://www.usmcparents.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=27652

Wayne teens write to Marines in Iraq

A college student from Wayne motivated hundreds of high school students to stop text messaging, e-mailing and instant messaging and - gasp - write a letter. (2/6)


Kristen Shaw, 19, asked students at Wayne Hills and Wayne Valley high schools to send holiday greetings to U.S. troops in Iraq. She received 442 letters - 40 more than when Shaw started the tradition last year. The correspondence added to millions of pounds of letters and packages that post offices are shipping to servicemen and women around the world at this time of year.

"As a soldier, you're away from your family at the holiday time," Shaw said. "I just thought it would be cool if not only the mothers and brothers were sending mail but also young people. As a young person you get caught up. I wanted to bring the two high schools together in a community effort."

The bulk of mail will be delivered to soldiers serving with the 2nd Battalion of the 6th Marines in Iraq. Two soldiers in the unit are graduates from Shaw's high school class at Wayne Valley. Shaw asked that their names not be released because, she said, she wants the delivery to be a surprise.

A business administration major at Ramapo College, Shaw started her "Letters to the Military" project by contacting the high school English departments. She asked participating teachers to proofread the letters and have them ready by Thanksgiving week.

About 100 students in Kirsten Damiani's English classes at Wayne Valley participated.

"So many of my students were anxious and excited to send letters and Sudoku puzzles to the soldiers," Damiani said. "Young adults are willing to help others; they just need to be told what they can do to help."

Both Damiani and Wayne Hills English teacher Donna Del Moro said letter writing is a foreign concept to most of their students.

By the numbers:
Mail to troops overseas surges during the seven-week holiday season.

# Weight of mail shipped in 2004: 10.5 million pounds

# Letters expected in 2005: 918,750

# U.S. servicemen and women in Iraq and Afghanistan: 176,000; 160,000 in Iraq, 16,000 in Afghanistan

# U.S. servicemen and women elsewhere overseas: 252,750; combined total 428,750

# Foreign countries where U.S. servicemen and women are based: 172

Source: Department of Defense and U.S. Postal Service

Fast facts

The Defense Department does not accept letters addressed to "any soldier" due to security concerns. Instead it suggests using the following resources to find a service member to support:

# Visit defendamerica.mil and click on the "Support Our Troops" icon.

# Visit operationuplink.org.

# Call the Military Postal Service Agency at (800) 810-6098.

Wayne Hills senior Karla Krause couldn't remember the last time she corresponded by "snail mail."

"Like an actual letter? Not an e-mail? I have no idea," Krause said. "I remember having a pen pal in the third grade."

Despite the unfamiliar territory, Krause said she enjoyed typing her one-page correspondence to an unknown soldier. Most of the students, teachers said, described themselves, wished the soldiers a happy holiday and thanked them for their service.

"Whether you believe in the war or not," said Wayne Valley senior Jason Dubnoff in an e-mail, "everybody from Wayne and all across America care and show their support. This assignment was a great way to show my support as well as my peers."

During the holiday season, letters mailed to troops overseas increase by 25 percent - to an average of 18,750 a day - said Joanne Veto, spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service.

Last year Americans mailed 10.5 million pounds of letters and packages to military troops overseas in the seven-week period, she said, and she expects the same amount this year.

Post offices feed mail for Army and Air Force members serving overseas to the Air/Army Post Office (APO). Navy and Marine mail goes to the Fleet Post Office (FPO) in California and is shipped out from there. To ensure your letters reach the soldiers in time, the Postal Service suggests getting them out by Saturday.

Shaw unloaded the hundreds of letters in the Wayne post office on Valley Road. The manager there, Leslie McAlister, said mail to Iraq and Afghanistan comes in all year long, but the rush started at the end of November.

"We're getting a lot of mail for the soldiers now because it's Christmas," McAlister said.

The small post office on Valley Road, one of five in Wayne, received 31 packages weighing over five pounds for the soldiers. And that's just for packages above four pounds.

The huge stack of receipts for smaller packages numbers in the hundreds.

Records show people sent makeup, snacks, hair coloring, Christmas stockings, Oreo cookies, magazines and more. Toiletries - such as travel-sized deodorant and toothpaste - are especially popular, McAlister said.

For Krause, the letter writing project made her stop and think.

"I have my family and my friends for the holidays," she said. "I'm not getting an 8-by-11 piece of paper from some girl. It made me appreciate everything a lot more."

E-mail: [email protected]

Analyzing intelligence in Iraq

While Thomas and Geraldine Witham are proud of both of their children, it’s their daughter Kathleen that they are most worried about.

Kathleen, better known as Katie, is a lance corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps and currently stationed in Iraq.


Katie, 23, always wanted to join the Marines as a youngster.

She, her brother Patrick, and their friend Matthew Nelson (who is also a Marine), used to play Marines when they were children.

Therefore, it didn’t surprise Geraldine and her husband two and a half years ago when Katie told them that she signed up.

Katie attended the Kennedy Elementary School and the South School before graduating from Blue Hills Regional Technical High School in 2001.

She then went to New England College in New Hampshire for a year before deciding that she wanted to enlist.

In March, 2003, Katie started boot camp at Camp Lejeune in Parris Island, S. C.

Although she fractured her hip during training, she made it through.

Katie was then sent to Camp Geiger in North Carolina, where she received the meritorious Mast for Outstanding Service in Marine Combat Training award.

She continued her training at the U.S. Marine and Naval Intelligence School in Dam Neck, Va. before being stationed at Miramar Air Base in San Diego, Ca.

Last July, Katie was deployed to Iraq aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Carawa.

She is an intelligence analyst with the 13thMarine Expeditionary Force.

While en route to Iraq, Katie had the opportunity to visit Hawaii, Australia, Africa, and Egypt.

Although both parents are concerned about Katie’s well being and pray for her safe return, Geraldine said that they have never tried to tame her competitive nature and stop her from doing the things she has wanted to do.

When Katie went to learn how to figure skate, she ended up as a competitive skater at age seven and a member of the Commonwealth Skating Club.

She earned many gold medals at the Bay State games and many other various competitions.

At age eight, Katie and her brother joined the Holbrook Sportsman’s Club, where their father is a competitive shooter and has been a member, on and off, for 20 years

The rest of the story can be found at the external link above.

December 8, 2005

VailArmedForces.com to host a week-long fund raiser supporting the children of our fallen heroes.

"They gave their life fighting for our Country...
now it is our turn to take care of their Children"

With the ongoing global war against terrorism and the continuing war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the goal of the Vail Armed Forces Week, is to raise funds for Recognized Military Foundations, providing educational scholarships, for the children who have lost a parent or was seriously wounded while serving our country. For this years event 90% of the net proceeds from the weeks event will be equally distributed to the

Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation
Naval Special Warfare Foundation.

The balance of 10% to be donated to a Army Foundation still to be selected.

VailArmedforces.com to host a weeklong fund-raiser in Vail Colorado, January 29-February 3, 2006, supporting the children of our fighting men and women. The affordable, fun-filled ski week supporting the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation (MCSF) and Naval Special Warfare Foundation (NSWF) is open to all active and retired military that have served in the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, Reserve, National Guard and US Public Health Services, defense contractors, law enforcement personnel, firefighters, family, friends and civilians interested in supporting the children.

"It is important that the spouses and children of our heroes know that the American citizens and businesses care, and also important for them to achieve their dreams through higher education," said Paul Donen, event founder and organizer.

Lodging/lift ticket packages are available at VailArmedForces.com starting under $400 up to $1100 per person, which includes five days lodging and four days skiing. In addition discounted airfare with Frontier Airlines and ski/snowboard equipment rentals are available. Several activities are scheduled to coincide with this fun-filled ski week such as: an opening and closing party, a fund-raiser dinner, raffle ticket drawings, door prizes and more with 100% of the net proceeds from the week's event donated equally to both the MCSF and NSWF.

"Two families each, from the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation and the Naval Special Warfare Foundation, are sponsored by Frontier Airlines, VailArmedForces.com, Double Diamond Ski Shop and participating Vail restaurants and lodge with all travel, lodging, skiing and participation expenses paid for," said Donen.

About Vail Armed Forces
VailArmedForces.com was founded with one specific goal in mind, to raise funds for national recognized military foundations providing educational scholarship programs to the son's and daughter's of our fighting men and women who have lost their lives or seriously wounded in battle, due to the ongoing global war against terrorism and the continuing war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Presently, through the Vail Armed Forces Week event, the organization raises funds for the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation and the Naval Special Warfare Foundation. In addition, with the recent merger of HOOAH!!!! Radio, the organization is adding the Special Operations Warrior Foundation and recognized Army Foundations to the program. Initially, funding for these two foundations will be provided through the net profits of the internet-based radio station, from advertising, donations and sponsorship monies received. The organizations ultimate goal is to combine all the foundations to the Vail Armed Forces Week and HOOAH!!!! Radio, with the total net profits equally distributed.

Visit www.vailarmedforces.com for more information about the Vail Armed Forces Week and HOOAH!!!! Radio

Single Parents

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif.(Dec. 8, 2005) -- Marines are trained to deploy: Married or single. This includes single parents.


Submitted by:
MCB Camp Pendleton
Story by:
Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Lanessa Arthur

Story Identification #:

Prior to deployment, it’s important to focus on family readiness. Preparation, ranging from bonding with your family to establishing a family care plan, is paramount.

“We come home; we spend all the time together we can,” said Staff Sgt. Carla S. Glover, adjutant chief Marine Corps Base and a single parent. “Whether it’s playing games, talking at the dinner table or maybe even watching our ‘scheduled’ T.V. shows — it’s quality time.”

That intimate bonding is important. According to Lt. Cmd. Eric D. Cunha, clinical psychologist department head at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton, preschool age children may regress during deployments in their daily skills causing 'toileting' accidents, using baby talk and more.

Lieutenant Cmdr. Lloyd V. David Ph.D., clinical psychologist with the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, also said they may complain of stomach aches, headaches, have sleeping problems or seem excessively clingy.

“Children between the ages of six and 12 may show behavioral problems like acting out, refusing to follow directions or go to school, getting in trouble at school, fighting, whining and a drop in grades,” he said.

To ease that transition, David offers the following advice.

- The parent should videotape himself or herself reading or talking to the child.

- Have plenty of photos of the parent around.

- Send a gift to the child.

- Coordinate projects that the child and parent can work on simultaneously, like a scrapbook or an online craft.

When choosing a guardian, Cunha recommends that family members make the best surrogate parent and familiar items can also add comfort.

Petty Officer 1st Class Anne E. Soucheck, hospital corpsman, Marine Corps Base, is marching in the right direction. “I have been sending my daughter’s things, like toys and clothes, bi-weekly to her grandma, so she will have them there when she gets there,” she said. “I’ve also discussed the ground rules with her grandma ... even though she might not follow them all.”

Guardian’s providing for the child will need a “Special Power of Attorney for the Welfare of a Child.” This will allow the guardian access to medical records and give them special permissions for the care of the child. Powers of attorney are also important when it comes to finances. Setting up an allotment, automated payments or having a trusted person pay the bills are all ideas for financially taking care of a child.

Powers of attorney are not the only documents needed, said Maj. Daniel P. Harvey, director of joint legal assistance office, Marine Corps Base.

“A family care plan and living will are important. The more complete the care plan the better off your child will be,” Harvey said.

A family care plan, which contains the living will and powers of attorney, should be turned in to the unit’s administration center. The plan will be maintained within the Marine’s and sailor’s service record book for the duration of the deployment.

“I’m not scheduled to deploy. But in that event I’ve got my family care plan at the ready,” said Glover. “I tell them (the kids) they’ll go with my best friend Beverly for a while. I will try to call as much as possible — but don’t know when I’ll be coming back.”

'It was like "boom!"'

Few Marines rattled, none injured in IED attack (2/2 Golf)

By Andrew Tilghman, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Friday, December 9, 2005

KARMAH, Iraq — Walking back from a routine foot patrol, Lance Cpl. Matt Boggs was just outside the gate of his camp when a deafening explosion sent a plume of black smoke hundreds of feet in the air and knocked him flat.

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Failed marriages can often follow wartime romances

Hundreds of soldiers and Marines based in North Carolina flocked to magistrates to be married in early 2003. Young and headed to Iraq, they were joining a romantic tradition as old as war and marriage.

Failed marriages can often follow wartime romances

By Jay Price


Many are contributing to the military's high wartime divorce rate.

The register of deeds in Onslow County, which is home to Camp Lejeune, issued 479 marriage licenses in the first two months of 2003, nearly 50 percent more than the same period in 2002. Cumberland County, the site of Fort Bragg, issued 644 licenses, up nearly one-third.

Since then, units have deployed repeatedly, keeping new spouses apart - in some cases nearly as much as they have been together. Meanwhile, recruiting has fallen, and the Pentagon knows that it must keep marriages healthy to shore up re-enlistment.

That means that it needs to save unions such as the ill-starred marriage of Seth E. Kilkuskie and Lakiesha N. Carter.

Carter, a 19-year-old single mother, spotted the handsome 20-year-old Marine one night in October 2002 in a Jacksonville gas station. He noticed her, too. He got her number, and that night they talked so long that her cell-phone battery drained twice.

"I don't know if it was just that we were both lonely," she said. "Everything got really, really serious, really, really quick."

About three months after they met, they were talking about his coming deployment and the extra pay and benefits that he could get as a married Marine. "One Wednesday, we just went down and got married," she said.

That was in January 2003. Things started going wrong almost as quickly as they had gone right. Money was tight. They didn't know each other as well as they thought.

"I'm stubborn, he's stubborn. Sometimes it got childish," she said. "Marriage is supposed to be about compromise, but neither one of us was willing to do that." Within months, they split.

"All we ever did was struggle," she said. "I think we got married too quick, considering how young we were."

Kilkuskie, who is in Iraq, could not be reached.

The ingredients of wartime romance - love, impulse, young hormones and looming separation - can also be a recipe for divorce, said Lt. Cmdr. Breck Bregel, a Navy chaplain at Camp Lejeune.

"There's just this idea out there that 'I'll be better off financially, or my fiancee will.' But there's maybe not that foundation. They may not have known each other very long. Or, being young, they might not have really developed that intimacy, that knowledge, that trust that make up a good foundation for marriage."

There were 5,700 divorces among active-duty Army soldiers in 2001, according to Pentagon statistics. By 2004, the number had nearly doubled, to 10,500. It dipped in 2005 but was nearly 25 percent higher than before the war.

The divorce rate among Marines was steadier. Nearly 75 percent of all military marriages that begin during a first enlistment end in divorce, Bregel said, compared with the national rate of about 50 percent. A big problem behind many failed military marriages is little known outside the service: misconceptions about pay.

More money is available to married personnel - about $12,000 on top of an annual $23,000 for a Marine lance corporal with three years of service if he moves off the base, and a couple of hundred dollars a month more during deployments. But the young Marines often don't understand how much extra they will have to shell out for vehicles, rent and other monthly bills.

Bradley J. Urias, then 20, and Ashley L. Petersen, 18, were married by an Onslow magistrate Jan. 15, 2003. He shipped out for the Middle East the next month and came home in July. The marriage lasted only a few months longer.

Petersen, through her mother, Lynn Petersen of Eagle River, Wis., declined to talk about the experience. But Lynn Petersen said that one problem was that Urias believed that he would come out ahead financially.

Urias told Ashley and her family that some of his leaders said that getting married was a good idea because of the pay.

"Are they not parents themselves?" Petersen said. "Don't they know the kind of damage they can do to young people's lives?"

Some of the marriages are working, despite the odds.

Glendon T. Sword and Billie Jo Harkins, then 24 and 19 and both Marine lance corporals, were wed the day after Lakiesha Carter in January 2003, by the same magistrate. They, too, had met in October - on a Lejeune rifle range where they were firing M-16s at adjacent targets. Her empty shell casings pelted him each time she pulled the trigger. They, too, made the decision to visit the magistrate quickly. But their experience was different in many ways.

"We had good, strong communications built up by that point," Sword said. "If you meet someone out on the town and start dating, and then you get married really quick, those are the couples that have a lot higher divorce rate."

But both agreed that marriage to another Marine is easier, because both know the nature of the job.

Troops often make decisions about re-enlistment based on their family's support. As recruiters struggle to meet targets, divorce rates have become a headache for the military, which has started several new programs to support marriage in recent years.

Chaplains are available for counseling almost any time. But the services also offer premarriage counseling programs, informal support networks for young wives, programs to ease combat soldiers' return to the family, groups to support the family while a soldier is gone - even weekend retreats at the beach for couples to improve their relationships. But much of this is voluntary, and arrayed against it are macho military culture, the irrationality of young romance, stress and long separations.

In many cases, couples get no counseling. At Lejeune, if Marines or sailors want to marry, most commanding officers require them to attend a two-day course called "Before I Say I Do," which focuses on financial issues, compatibility, sexuality and communications.

Sometimes, said Carter, the single mother, it is not that two people are wrong for each other, just that the way they handle marriage is wrong.

She doesn't blame her ex-husband for the collapse of their marriage any more than she blames herself. "I regret it, like, every day," she said.

Carter has seen a lot and done a lot since that impulsive trip to the magistrate. But even after what she has been through, the romance of wartime marriage can still overcome logic. "Considering that rising death toll, I might tell somebody who was thinking about doing it to go ahead," she said. "I mean, one of them might not be around that much longer, so why not?"


Marines need life-saving bone marrow transplants

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Ca.(Dec. 8, 2005) -- With their lean physiques, short hair and confident demeanors, staff sergeants Emanuel Smith Jr. and Gustavo Aleman are like most of their camouflaged comrades, but with one difference.

These two Marines have cancer.


Submitted by:
MCB Camp Pendleton
Story by:
Computed Name: Cpl. Tom Sloan
Story Identification #:

Smith and Aleman both suffer from leukemia, and both are in dire need of a bone marrow transplant.

Smith, who’s currently assigned to 3rd Civil Affairs Group as the personnel chief and resides in San Onofre Housing with his wife, Angela, and their four children, was diagnosed with the disease in May 2004.

“It really caught me off guard,” said Smith, who at the time was a sergeant working at the School of Infantry as the legal noncommissioned officer. “It was out of the blue.”

The 12-year-Marine from Decatur, Ga., found the bad news had a profound effect on his life.

“It brought me back to the church,” he said.

Prior to diagnosis, Smith was constantly fatigued and light-headed. Thinking it was only dehydration, he visited medical, where the staff thought his condition wasn’t severe and instructed him to hydrate.

“They just thought I was dehydrated too and told me to drink water and come back later,” he recalled.

Smith’s symptoms only worsened over time, and he was diagnosed with leukemia two weeks later.

“I’m not the type that gets sick easily,” Smith insisted. “I never get tired. Ask my wife, and she’ll tell you that when I do catch a cold, I’m over it in a couple of days.”

With true Marine tenacity, Smith pressed on in his career and didn’t let his illness slow him down.

He was promoted to staff sergeant in April and said the event was a combination of joy and sorrow. He was happy to be climbing the ladder of success and sad for being ill.

Smith has been undergoing chemotherapy at Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego since his diagnosis. The chemo has caused him to lose weight and most of his hair, which he said, “is the best way to save money on haircuts.”

Despite the hardships, Smith remains optimistic that he’ll receive a bone marrow transplant and get better. He gets much of his strength from his wife, Angela.

“She’s been my cheerleader and my coach at the same time through it all,” he said. “She’s very supportive.”

Smith said he has a lot to live for, a family he loves very much and career in the Marine Corps.

“I need a bone marrow transplant, and I have faith that I’ll get one,” he said. “It may take time, but that’s where my wife and the church come into play.”

Smith isn’t battling the cancer solo.

Aleman, 31, of Houston, was diagnosed with leukemia while serving in Fallujah, Iraq in May.

“I had received orders to return to recruiting duty in Houston and was having my physical done when the doctors found something wrong with my blood,” recalled Aleman. “They said my blood was low and that I was in trouble. I knew I wasn’t feeling well, but I just thought the Iraq heat was making me feel tired. I felt really tired.”

Aleman had been a recruiter before and was looking forward to returning to the duty in his hometown.

The day wouldn’t come, though.

Within hours of conducting the physical and discovering Aleman’s condition, doctors had him transported to Baghdad and then to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany. Once there, doctors told him he had the rare disease.

“I couldn’t believe the news,” he said.

Aleman said he considered himself a healthy person. He now finds himself seeking matches for a bone marrow transplant. His wife, Rosario, two sons, Miguel, 14, and Daniel, 4, nor anyone else in his family is a match.

“I haven’t been able to find a match yet,” said Aleman.

He remains confident, though, despite his potentially fatal illness.

“I’m sure we’ll find a match, eventually,” he said.

Aleman is currently the administrative chief for 3rd Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. He lives in Vista with his wife and two sons and has been undergoing chemotherapy treatments since August at Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego.

A match for the two Marines could be found during the Camp Pendleton Bone Marrow Donor Registration Drive scheduled for Tuesday to Thursday.

Lieutenant Col. Mike Bontell, coordinator of the Camp Pendleton Bone Marrow Donor Campaign, has high hopes for the drive.

“We have an opportunity to make a difference in our own world,” said Bontell. “By joining the donor registry, you could possibly save the life of our own. I challenge every Marine, sailor, civilian and (family member) to set aside the time, pick the most convenient date and location and show up. (Those suffering) need a miracle. During this Christmas season of giving, I urge you all to look deep into your heart and be their miracle.”

The drive will be held at the following locations from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.:

Sea Side Square San Onofre Exchange in the 52 Area and the Naval Hospital Tuesday.

Pacific Plaza Exchange in the 20 Area Wednesday.

Main Side Exchange Thursday.

December 7, 2005

Byron Marine a man of faith

Andrew Patten was one of 10 to die Thursday in a roadside-bombing attack in Iraq.


By MIKE WISER, Rockford Register Star

ROCKFORD — His fellow Fox Company Marines called Andrew Patten “the Rev.”

The nickname is a testament to how seriously the 19-year-old Byron High School graduate took his faith.

Patten was killed Thursday in Fallujah, Iraq, alongside nine others when a roadside bomb — the military calls them IEDs, or improved explosive devices — exploded in the midst of their foot patrol. It was the second-worst attack on U.S. troops since the Iraq war began.

Sunday afternoon, two days after Andrew’s father, Alan, got a 3:30 a.m. visitor at the door informing him of his son’s death, Andrew’s parents talked about their son’s faith to local news media at a home in Rockford.

Sunday night, members of Andrew’s Rockford church, Maywood Evangelical Free Church, gathered for the ministry hour where special prayers were given for a Marine that many had known since he was a boy.

“Tonight we recognize that his family, as well as his church family, have suffered a tremendous loss,” Maywood Associate Pastor Dave Currie prayed in front of about 50 worshippers who attended the sermon.

“The Second Death cannot touch Andy. We know that Andy lives.”

This church is where services for Andrew will be held, but a date has not been scheduled. For now, the church has erected a small memorial to him — a poster-sized picture of him in his dress blues accompanied by the Bible passage, John 15:13.

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

At the home, Andrew’s parents, Alan Patten and Gayle Naschansky, sat together on a couch next to a Christmas tree topped with a dove and talked a bit about their son.

Andrew had chosen to go into the Marines after high school because he was unsure of how he wanted to spend the rest of his life. Alan said he encouraged his son to go into a branch like the Navy or the Air Force so he could learn to work on machines.

“He told me, ‘I want to be a Marine, Pop,’ and that was that,” Alan said Sunday. Andrew was expected to serve a seven-month tour overseas. He left on July 4th this year and was expected back at the end of December or in early January. His parents hope he will be buried in Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

“He was extremely involved in the church and wasn’t afraid to share his faith,” Naschansky said of her son. “The nickname they gave him was ‘the Rev.,’ and I could see how they could call him that, how he’d talk to them about his faith.”

It was through church that Andrew met most of his close friends, like Eddie and Josh Engelert and Matt Nyberg. The three boys, and others, were with Alan and Naschansky Sunday.

His friends talked about Andrew’s outgoing personality, how he once drove his truck through a five-foot snowbank in the church parking lot and how they planned on visiting Andrew at the base 29 Palms California where he was stationed stateside.

“It looks like we’ll be going to Washington, D.C. for the burial instead,” Eddie, 20, said. “It’s just the fact that we’re all Christians, I don’t know how I would be doing if we weren’t all Christians and that he’s in Heaven.”

While church and family were a big part of his life, there were other parts as well.

Alan said his son was an outstanding athlete who played football and wrestled in high school. He also had an ear for music, his latest passion was the guitar, but he played piano, viola, and the trumpet.

“I had to draw the line at the saxophone,” Alan said, laughing a bit at the memory. “He had an ear for music, he was a natur-al.”

In a news release sent Sunday, Byron School District Superintendent Marge Fostiak said Andrew’s teachers remembered him as a hardworking student who showed leadership. “We are proud to claim such a fine young man and true American hero as a graduate of our district,” Fostiak said.

Naschansky recalled getting satellite phone calls from her son. At the front lines, they didn’t have ready access to the Internet and such, and the whole unit had to share one satellite phone. She supplemented her conversations with Andrew by logging onto a Web site www.marineparents.com and writing with other parents who had children with Andrew. She said her involvement with the group has helped her immensely, particularly since Friday.

“I’ve heard from some other people who were in the squad, but survived,” Naschansky said. “They told me what happened, it’s been extremely helpful and I’m so grateful for them.”

Andrew is survived by his parents, his sister, Allison, and grandparents, Richard and Dorothea Seaman.

Contact: [email protected]; 815-987-1377

Andrew Patten memorial Web site

Olson Funeral Chapels has a Web site available for people to send condolences to the family of Andrew Patten. Visit www.olsonfh.com. In the left menu on that site, click on “obituaries/condolences,” then scroll down to the Andrew Patten link.

Rock River Valley War Dead

Casualties (accidents and combat) from the war with ties to the Rock River Valley:

Brandon Rowe, 20, of Roscoe, 101st Airborne Division; March 31, 2003.

Kelly J. Sanders, 38, formerly of Dixon, civilian employee of the U.S. Air Force; March 28, 2003.

Lincoln Hollinsaid, 27, of Malden, with family in Rockford and Monroe Center; 3rd Infantry Division; April 7, 2003.

Christian C. Schulz, 20, of Colleyville, Texas, with family in Rockford; U.S. Army specialist; died July 11, 2003.

1st Lt. Brian Slavenas, 30, graduated from DeKalb High School, family from Rockford; F Company, 106th Aviation Battalion; Nov. 1, 2003.

Army Pfc. Scott Matthew Tyrrell, 21, of Forreston, 299th Charlie Company; Nov. 20, 2003.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Branden Ramey, 22, of Belvidere; Nov. 8, 2004.

Lance Cpl. Neil D. Petsche, 21, of Lena; Dec. 21, 2004.

Lance Cpl. Andrew Grant Patten, 19, of Byron; Dec. 1, 2005.

Marine's funeral: Protest possible

NAPERVILLE — From all accounts, 19-year-old Lance Cpl. Adam Kaiser lived a quiet life before he was killed serving with the Marines in Iraq.

His funeral service, however, might not be that quiet for his Romeoville parents and others who mourn his death.


By Tim Waldorf

NAPERVILLE — From all accounts, 19-year-old Lance Cpl. Adam Kaiser lived a quiet life before he was killed serving with the Marines in Iraq.

His funeral service, however, might not be that quiet for his Romeoville parents and others who mourn his death.

A church group that protests funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq with signs that read, "God Hates America," and, "Thank God for Dead Soldiers," plans to be there.

Shirley Phelps-Roper, the attorney for Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., said a group from the church intends to protest at both Kaiser's funeral and the funeral of Byron resident Lance Cpl. Andrew Patten, 19, who also was killed in Thursday's blast near Fallujah.

The group already has protested about a dozen funerals in Illinois.

Fred Phelps, Westboro's pastor, said soldiers' deaths are God's way of punishing America for its "acceptance of homosexuality.

Adam's father, Wade Kaiser of Romeoville, said he heard of the group about two weeks ago, and after his son's death, was told to prepare for their presence by the Marines.

Wade said he thinks it is sad that the group wants to do this, but he supports their right to do it.

"But I think it will show a lot of people what these people are all about," Wade said. "I think it should be an embarrassment to them, and it does nothing to help their cause."

Naperville police Sgt. Joel Truemper said the department is aware of the possibility that the Westboro group may protest at Adam Kaiser's funeral. He said Naperville police already planned to have a presence at the service, just as they have for the other funerals of Naperville soldiers recently killed in combat.

At past funeral services, police have worked with funeral homes and churches to protect mourners' privacy by asking unwanted parties to leave the property.

Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn is proposing a new law that would prohibit protests within 300 feet of any military funeral.

"To have these vile signs and epithets hurled at any family and any funeral is wrong," Quinn told the Chicago Sun-Times. "We should respect the right of any family to grieve and bury their dead with reverence."

Phelps said such a law would be unconstitutional, but Quinn said the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed the type of restrictions he is proposing.


AIEDD Course Improves Explosives Disposal Training

FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. - The Naval School of Explosive Ordnance Disposal has intensified the training for experienced explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) technicians with the addition of the Advanced Improvised Explosive Device Disposal (AIEDD) Training Facility.


Navy News | John Osborne | December 06, 2005

The new $7 million facility concluded its pilot course Nov. 23, and the first full class will begin Jan. 6.

The facility is a joint course run by the Navy on Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. It is designed to train and evaluate the ability of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team leaders, personnel of other key federal agencies and selected international EOD personnel to diagnose, disable, contain and dispose of sophisticated improvised explosive devices (IED) in varied environments, including battlefield operations, peacekeeping operations and homeland defense.

“The tactics of our enemies in the global war on terrorism have made it necessary for us to stay a step ahead of them, and that is what the AIEDD School will accomplish,” said AIEDD Division Officer Lt. David Blauser. “We are taking well-trained EOD technicians and making them better through teaching, demonstrating and exercising how to use their tools and skills more effectively.

"Our EOD technicians in Iraq and Afghanistan have done a great Job so far in countering the IED threat, but we cannot become complacent," he continued. "This course will use the most up-to-date intelligence and experience from forward-deployed EOD units to hone the technicians’ skills.”

Each three-week class will train 24 technicians. All students are graduates of the Navy’s Basic EOD course, and Navy, Marine, Army and Air Force EOD technicians who attend the course will typically have three or more years of operational experience, with two or more deployments to their credit.

Blauser said he feels the knowledge gained through experience that these individuals bring to the table is invaluable, but reiterated that just because a particular method worked on countering an IED one day doesn’t mean that the next day the same device won’t require a different approach.

“Every AIEDD student must understand how serious this training is, and they must realize that every time they go to work on an IED, it is a life-and-death situation,” he said. “The technicians attending AIEDD who have been over there and performed disposal tasks successfully are proof positive that what we teach here can and does save their lives and the lives of the people fighting alongside them, but we have to stay ahead in our training because the design, construction and methods of initiation for an IED are as infinite as the builder’s imagination."

Because of the unique challenges this mission area presents to EOD technicians, there are no formal written procedures that can safely deal with every IED, so the course stresses that each IED must be evaluated separately for the unique challenges it represents. Team leaders are put through various realistic scenarios where they have to respond and employ EOD tools, including explosives, to counter the threat in the safest and most efficient manner. The AIEDD facility provides students the opportunity to actually practice these procedures, which they would otherwise have to simulate in other training environments.

“This course illustrates the value of Sea Warrior, which gives the Navy the ability to quickly design and deploy new courses of instruction based on Fleet and Joint requirements,” said Naval School EOD Commander, Capt. Thomas Green. “We are sending our EOD technicians out onto the battlefield to help save the lives of U.S. Marines, Soldiers, civilians and coalition forces, and it is our obligation to ensure they are safeguarded with the best training and intelligence available.”

Iraqi soldiers making strides in training

Battalion in Anbar province ready to begin independent patrols

By Andrew Tilghman, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Wednesday, December 7, 2005

AL KARMAH, Iraq — Cpl. Ricky Gray was leading a patrol of Iraqi army soldiers a few miles east of Fallujah when a large flatbed truck rumbled along a back road toward the troops.

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Hagee visits Marines in Ramadi

RAMADI, Iraq — Marine Commandant Gen. Mike Hagee dropped in on the leathernecks of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines today, in a visit to what a top commander here calls “the most dangerous place in Iraq.”


By Christian Lowe
Times staff writer

Less than an hour before Hagee’s late-morning visit, the deep thuds of outgoing artillery fire and heavy machine gun rounds echoed across the Euphrates River in the fringes of the city.

Meeting with the Marines of Combined Anti-Armor Team Black, Weapons Company, 3/7, in the dusty courtyard fronting their squad bay, Hagee applauded their efforts, telling the leathernecks to be prepared for more of the same kind of urban fighting, where separating friend from foe is difficult and dangerous.

“It’s much more demanding today because you have to be a ‘strategic corporal,’” he told them, referring to former commandant Gen. Charles Krulak’s theory that the tactical decisions made by young Marines in a single event can have much broader strategic consequences.

The Marines of 3/7 are here as part of a lager, Army-run force under the direction of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, headed by Army Col. John Gronski, commander of the Philadelphia-based 2nd Brigade, 28th Division (Mechanized). The force has been working for months to subdue Ramadi, a city that has become the epicenter of insurgent activity since the Marine invasion of Fallujah more than a year ago.

While Gronski, in a Dec. 5 interview, said the number of attacks against U.S. forces is down in recent months — the result of aggressive U.S. counterinsurgency operations that have uncovered huge caches of enemy arms and explosives, some hidden within the solid walls of houses — Marines and soldiers still encounter increasingly sophisticated roadside bombs, insurgent snipers and mortar attacks on bases here.

Gronski is pushing his forces hard to secure the city for the Dec. 15 elections and reduce attacks by al Qaida-inspired terrorists, but the ultimate solution to security for the long term will have to be a home-grown one, he said.

“I measure success by the amount of territory I can give to the Iraqis,” Gronski said, referring to the nascent Iraqi army.

He went on to say that U.S. forces might be ready to hand over all of Ramadi to the Iraqis by the end of 2nd BCT’s tour this coming summer. But if the Iraqis aren’t ready by then, they’ll most certainly be strong enough for American forces to leave the city following year, he added.

Two Marines take the road less traveled

ABOARD THE U.S.S. PELELIU(Dec. 6, 2005) -- One Marine sought the road less traveled while the other sought the path to self discovery. Both found that their road was one in the same, and it began at the yellow footprints. (11th MEU)


Submitted by:
11th MEU
Story by:
Computed Name: Staff Sgt. Sergio Jimenez
Story Identification #:

Lance Cpl. Ryan J. Heist, operations clerk, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Camp Pendleton, never set out to be a Marine. Heist grew up in affluence, a self-described privileged kid who had everything handed to him right up until he joined the Marine Corps.

Lance Cpl. Christopher K. Morgan-Riess, tactical data network specialist, 11th MEU, came from an upper-middle class background. Morgan-Riess, who was the only child of a college professor and book publisher, graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a bachelors degree in philosophy. Growing up, Morgan-Riess said he lived in the sheltered world of academia with his face buried in books.

Both young men had everything going for them. They had money, nice homes, nice clothes and a pedigree that destined them to academic success and monetary wealth.

Heist would later realize that money wasn't everything and Morgan-Riess soon learned that the lessons of life he was searching for could not all be found in books.

So they both joined the Marines.

Now, both Marines find themselves sailing off the coast of Camp Pendleton, aboard an amphibious assault ship and part of one of the most elite fighting forces the world has ever seen. As Heist puts it, he is on a personal journey of discovery, while Morgan-Riess describes his quest as one for knowledge. Aboard the U.S.S. Peleliu, they are conducting dangerous and important training that they may one day have to use in Iraq or in some other war-torn place. Both are just a couple thousand miles from home, but almost a million miles from the life they used to live.

Before enlisting in the Marines, Heist spent his days going to college and working for a popular Jazz restaurant in Dallas. He played basketball and football, went fishing, and spent his time listening to music and going to the movies with friends and family. If he needed money, all he needed to do was to make one call. Until then, "everything was just handed to me, and I never had to earn it," said Heist.

Although extremely intelligent, Heist was uninspired in school and after a couple of years he had had enough.

So one night after work, Heist stopped and took a hard and honest look at his life. "I had no direction," said Heist. "I didn't have the discipline to go to class and do all my work at the time. I needed a place where I could get some structure and stability, and I couldn't think of a better place than the Marine Corps," said Heist.

Although their friends and family respected their decision, both Marines said most of their loved ones were not too happy at first.

"My father was pretty shocked. It took a couple of weeks of long dinners explaining to him what my reasons were for enlisting," said Morgan-Riess. "He was expecting for me to go on to pursue higher degrees right away," he said.
Heist's family had a similar reaction.

"But I think after boot camp, they really saw the change in me," said Heist. "saw me standing taller, being able to look someone in the eye and being able to express my opinions in a confident manner," said Heist.

It was this newfound confidence and an inherent intelligence that Heist brought with him to the 11th MEU more than one year ago. These were all traits that he would need, if he were to function aboard a ship loaded with aircraft and equipment that housed more than 2300 Marines and sailors packed like sardines.

"Life aboard a ship is a culture shock like no other," said Heist. It's like a small floating city inside a pressure cooker streaming toward the horizon, where the heat begins to rise and the pressure starts to build as soon as the warning order is dropped and a mission is assigned, he said.

Most Marines and sailors would say that the MEU is not a place for the meek, soft-spoken, thin-skinned or those accustomed to a full night's sleep. The sounds of Harriers taking off and landing is deafening and the rattle of chains being dragged across a hard-coated steel deck can be heard way down into the bowels of the ship. It's a place for those who are driven, undeterred and maybe just a little bit crazy.

It is a place where tensions can sometimes run high, where time off and a good nights sleep are virtually non-exist because everyone is focused on only one thing, accomplishing the mission, said Heist. It is also an environment in which Heist and Morgan-Riess have flourished.

"Morgan-Riess is the type of Marine I would want on my team," said Sgt. Mauricio A. Febres, computer technician. "He is one of the most capable troubleshooters in the MEU. He is extremely intelligent, very mature, and needs no supervision," said Febres.

According to Morgan-Riess, the work is endless and there is little time to sleep. Despite this, he said there is no other job he would rather be doing and he is confident that joining the Corps was the best decision he ever made. Morgan-Riess said he remembers the exact moment that he knew he took the right road. It was in basic training, while marching in silence to the chow hall on a cold dark and miserable morning. "I happened to look up at the stars and at the faces of the Marines around me, whom I had been sweating and bleeding with for the past two months," he said.

"I remember having this feeling of complete camaraderie and a certainty that if I ever needed them, they would help me, and that I would help them," he said. "I had never felt anything like that before."

"When you've worked 36 hours straight and you're sitting around talking about how tough that was with Marines from all walks of life, there is a certain amount of bonding that I don't think can be experienced anywhere else," said Morgan-Riess.

"I see friends of mine who have gone on to pursue Ph.D.s and they still have only those five friends they've always had going through school," said Morgan-Riess.

Although it's nice to form close relationships, life in academia has a tendency to insulate you from the rest of the world, he said. "At that point in my life, I wanted to see the world and experience how the military works from a first person perspective rather than reading it in a book," he said.

According to both Marines, since enlisting in the Corps, both have learned lessons in leadership, teamwork, mission planning and accomplishment in a setting like no other. And they have learned lessons that they could never have learned anywhere else.

Heist, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, has seen the devastation of war and the devastation that Hurricane Katrina inflicted on Americans here at home. Heist was with the MEU when they traveled to Gulf Coast Region to assist the victims of one of the worst natural disasters to hit the United States. Given his background, Heist said one of the most important lesson he's learned while in the Corps is to not to take so many things for granted. That as Americans we are very privileged and we that we should appreciate everything we have."

Both Marines plan to leave the Marine Corps after their first enlistment and to continue their education. Heist plans to continue to pursue his degree while in the Marines and then use the leadership, logistical and technical skills he has learned to open his own restaurant. Morgan-Riess plans to pursue a degree in Law with a specialization in International Human Rights after fulfilling his commitment to the Corps. His dream is to some day work to prosecute war criminals in international criminal courts.

Both Marines say they are confident they will look back on their experiences and at the lessons they learned with the MEU and consider them as the focal point in their character development. For his part, Morgan-Riess said that when the time comes to look back at the road the he has traveled, a segment of the famous Robert Frost poem "The Road Less Traveled" will probably come to mind. "…Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference."

Father Pushes For Soldier Counseling After Son's Suicide

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- Battle wounds are not always visible and often need help to heal. An Oregon family is concerned that troops are not being counseled after serving on the front lines, and they claim it caused their loved one to take his own life.


Jeff Gianola, KOIN News 6

Glen Forcum buried his son two weeks ago. The grass is fresh and there's no gravestone yet. The family could barely afford the burial costs.

The 20-year-old Marine killed himself six weeks after returning home from Iraq.

"They had less than a 24-hour debriefing. He needed transition back into society. It wasn't properly taken care of, I don’t think," uncle Kennith Frisbie said.

"They teach them how to fight but they don't teach them how to come home and live," Forcum said.

"They get back and things aren't the same. They are not the same people they were when they left," Jeffrey Pugmire said.

Pugmire returned from Afghanistan in 2002 after being injured in an explosion that killed four of his friends.

"My deal was, 'Why did they die and not me?'" he explained.

Pugmire was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. He says he could not have dealt with it without the help of counselors at the veteran's center.

"The need here is great for these guys to know what they have. And the problem is that most of them have no idea."

Forcum says he had no idea his son needed help.

"I thought he was OK. He thought he was OK," Forcum said.

Now he wants counseling to be mandatory for soldiers when they return from combat.

"It's the last thing in the world I want is somebody else to do what my family is doing -- bury their child because they didn't get the help they needed, whether they thought they needed it or not," Forcum said.

Residents Showing Patriotism After Local Soldier's Death

People in the town of Portland are coming together to support a family who lost their loved one overseas. 24-year-old Dave Huhn was killed last Thursday in Iraq when a roadside bomb exploded.


Since news of his death started to spread, his family has been the object of the town's sympathy and support. Flags are flying at half staff, signs are in neighbor's yards and a memorial at the local VFW, are all honoring fallen marine David Huhn. Since news of Huhn's death hit, the already-patriotic town of Portland has come together to honor Huhn and to support his family.

Kevin Huhn, brother: "The community is doing everything they can, any wish we could want, and we want to say thank you."

Dave's brother Kevin, his sister Chris and uncle Jeff have all seen the kindness of the community.

Kevin Huhn: "It's just been unbelievable."

But it's not just the support they can see that's helping the family through the difficult time, it's also the support that they hear.

Chris Forist, sister: "We're getting calls from people we never even knew, and old friends we haven't talked to in 15 years. It's kind of nice."

Jeff Helmel, uncle: "All the relatives are calling him a hero, neighbors are calling him a hero, it's just a tremendous outpouring."

And it's the title of hero that his uncle says he really appreciates.

Jeff Helmel: "We all hoped he would come home under different circumstances, but now, under the current circumstances, to be called a hero, I think is appropriate."

The support for the family keeps on coming, the VFW will soon officially dedicate their flag in Huhn's honor, and when the soldier finally makes it back to Portland at the end of the week, there are already plans to welcome him home.

Funeral arrangements for Lance Corporal Huhn have not been finalized, but anyone wishing to show their support is encouraged to lay flowers or candles at the base of the flag pole at the VFW hall in Portland.

Among troops, new efforts to gauge war’s emotional casualties

It was hardly a traditional therapist’s office. The mortar fire was relentless, head-splitting, so close that it raised layers of rubble high off the floor of the bombed-out room.


The New York Times

Capt. William Nash, a Navy psychiatrist, sat on an overturned box of ready-made meals for the troops. He was in Iraq to try to short-circuit combat stress on the spot, before it became disabling, as part of the military’s most determined effort yet to bring therapy to the front lines.

His clients, about a dozen young men desperate for help after weeks of living and fighting in Fallujah, sat opposite him and told their stories.

One had been spattered with his best friend’s blood and blamed himself for the death.

Another was also filled with guilt. He had hesitated while scouting an alley and had seen the man in front of him shot to death.

[More than 200 soldiers from two Philadelphia-based National Guard units served in Iraq from September 2003 until January 2005.

Two Neshoba County natives, Sgt. Joshua Shane Ladd, 20, and 1st Lt. Matthew Ryan Stovall, 25, died in separate incidents in 2004 while fighting in Iraq.]

“They were so young,” Nash recalled.

At first, when they talked, he simply listened.

Then he did his job, telling them that soldiers always blame themselves when someone is killed, in any war, always.

Grief, he told them, can make us forget how random war is, how much we have done to protect those we are fighting with.

“You try to help them tell a coherent story about what is happening, to make sense of it, so they feel less guilt and shame over protecting others, which is so common,” said Nash, who counseled the Marines last November as part of the military’s increased efforts to defuse psychological troubles.

He added, “You have to help them reconstruct the things they used to believe in that don’t make sense anymore, like the basic goodness of humanity.”

Military psychiatry has always been close to a contradiction in terms. Psychiatry aims to keep people sane; military service in wartime makes demands that seem insane.

This war in particular presents profound mental stresses: unknown and often unseen enemies, suicide bombers, a hostile land with virtually no safe zone, no real front or rear. A 360-degree war, military psychologists call it, an asymmetrical battle space that threatens to injure troops’ minds as well as their bodies.

But just how deep those mental wounds are, and how many will be disabled by them, are matters of deepening controversy. Some experts suspect that the legacy of Iraq could echo that of Vietnam, when almost a third of returning military personnel reported significant, often chronic, psychological problems, sometimes even 20 years after their tours.

Others say the mental casualties will be much lower, given the resilience of today’s troops and the sophistication of the military’s psychological corps, which place therapists like Nash into combat zones.

The numbers so far tell a mixed story. The suicide rate among soldiers was high in 2003 but fell significantly in 2004, according to two Army surveys among more than 2,000 soldiers and mental health support providers in Iraq. Morale rose in the same period, but 54 percent of the troops say morale is low or very low, the report found.

A continuing study of combat units that served in Iraq has found that about 17 percent of the personnel have shown serious symptoms of depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder — characterized by intrusive thoughts, sleep loss and hyper-alertness, among other symptoms — in the first few months after returning from Iraq, a higher rate than in Afghanistan but thought to be lower than after Vietnam.

In interviews, many members of the armed services and psychologists who had completed extended tours in Iraq said they had battled feelings of profound grief, anger and moral ambiguity about the effect of their presence on Iraqi civilians.

And at bases back home, there have been violent outbursts among those who have completed tours. A Marine from Camp Pendleton, Calif., has been convicted of murdering his girlfriend. And three members of a special forces unit based at Fort Carson, in Colorado Springs, have committed suicide, one reportedly after hitting his wife.

Yet for returning service members, experts say, the question of whether their difficulties are ultimately diagnosed as mental illness may depend not only on the mental health services available, but also on the politics of military psychiatry itself, the definition of what a normal reaction to combat is and the story the nation tells itself about the purpose and value of the soldiers’ service.

“We must not ever diminish the pain and anguish many soldiers will feel; this kind of experience never leaves you,” said David H. Marlowe, a former chief of military psychiatry at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. “But at the same time we have to be careful not to create an attachment to that pain and anguish by pathologizing it.”

The legacy of Iraq, Marlowe said, will depend as much on how service members are received and understood by the society they return to as on their exposure to the trauma of war.


The blood and fury of combat exhilarate some people and mentally scar others, for reasons no one understands.

On an October night in 2003, mortar shells fell on a base camp near Baquba, Iraq, where Spc. Abbie Pickett, then 21, was serving as a combat lifesaver, caring for the wounded. Pickett continued working all night by the dim blue light of a flashlight, “plugging and chugging” bleeding troops to a makeshift medical tent, she said.

At first, she did not notice that one of the medics who was working with her was bleeding heavily and near death; then, frantically, she treated his wounds and moved him to a medical station not knowing if he would survive.

He did survive, Pickett later learned. But the horror of that night is still vivid, and the memory stalks her even now, more than a year after she returned home.

“I would say that on a weekly basis I wish I would have died during that attack,” said Pickett, who served with the Wisconsin Army National Guard and whose condition has been diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder. “You never want family to hear that, and it’s a selfish thing to say. But I’m not a typical 23-year-old, and it’s hard being a combat vet and a woman and figuring out where you fit in.”

Each war produces its own traumatic syndrome. The trench warfare of World War I produced the shaking and partial paralysis known as shell shock. The long tours and heavy fighting of World War II induced in many young men the numbed exhaustion that was called combat fatigue.

But it is post-traumatic stress disorder, a diagnosis some psychiatrists intended to characterize the mental struggles of Vietnam veterans, that now dominates the study and description of war trauma.

The diagnosis has always been controversial. Few experts doubt that close combat can cause a lingering hair-trigger alertness and play on a person’s conscience for a lifetime. But no one knows what level of trauma is necessary to produce a disabling condition or who will become disabled.

The largest study of Vietnam veterans found that about 30 percent of them had post-traumatic stress disorder in the 20 years after the war but that only a fraction of those service members had had combat roles. Another study of Vietnam veterans, done around the same time, found that the lifetime rate of the syndrome was half as high, 15 percent.

And since Vietnam, therapists have diagnosed the disorder in crime victims, disaster victims, people who have witnessed disasters, even those who have seen upsetting events on television. The disorder varies widely depending on the individual and the nature of the trauma, psychiatrists say, but they cannot yet predict how.

Yet the very pervasiveness of post-traumatic stress disorder as a concept shapes not only how researchers study war trauma but also how many soldiers describe their reactions to combat.

Pickett, for example, has struggled with the intrusive memories typical of post-traumatic stress and with symptoms of depression and a seething resentment over her service, partly because of what she describes as irresponsible leaders and a poorly defined mission. Her memories make good bar stories, she said, but they also follow her back to her apartment, where the combination of anxiety and uncertainty about the value of her service has at times made her feel as if she were losing her mind.

Richard J. McNally, a psychologist at Harvard, said, “It’s very difficult to know whether a new kind of syndrome will emerge from this war for the simple reason that the instrument used to assess soldiers presupposes that it will look like PTSD from Vietnam.”

A more thorough assessment, McNally said, “might ask not only about guilt, shame and the killing of noncombatants, but about camaraderie, leadership, devotion to the mission, about what is meaningful and worthwhile, as well as the negative things.”


Sitting amid the broken furniture in his Fallujah “office,” Nash represents the military’s best effort to handle stress on the ground, before it becomes upsetting, and keep service members on the job with the others in their platoon or team, who provide powerful emotional support.

While the military deployed mental health experts in Vietnam, most stayed behind the lines. In part because of that war’s difficult legacy, the military has increased the proportion of field therapists and put them closer to the action than ever before.

The Army says it has about 200 mental health workers for a force of about 150,000, including combat stress units that travel to combat zones when called on. The Marines are experimenting with a program in which the therapists stationed at a base are deployed with battalions in the field.

“The idea is simple,” said Lt. Cmdr. Gary Hoyt, a Navy psychologist and colleague of Nash in the Marine program. “You have a lot more credibility if you’ve been there, and soldiers and Marines are more likely to talk to you.”

Hoyt has himself struggled with irritability and heightened alertness since returning from Iraq in September 2004.

Psychologists and psychiatrists on the ground have to break through the mental toughness that not only keeps troops fighting but also prevents them from seeking psychological help, which is viewed as a sign of weakness. And they have been among the first to identify the mental reactions particular to this war.

One of them, these experts say, is profound, unreleased anger. Unlike in Vietnam, where service members served shorter tours and were rotated in and out of the country individually, troops here have deployed as units and tend to have trained together as full-time military or in the Reserves or the National Guard. Group cohesion is strong, and the bonds only deepen in the hostile desert terrain of Iraq.

For these tight-knit groups, certain kinds of ambushes — roadside bombs, for instance — can be mentally devastating, for a variety of reasons.

“These guys go out in convoys, and boom: The first vehicle gets hit, their best friend dies, and now they’re seeing life flash before them and get a surge of adrenaline and want to do something,” said Lt. Col. Alan Peterson, an Air Force psychologist based at Wilford Hall Medical Center, in San Antonio, who completed a tour in Iraq last year. “But often there’s nothing they can do. There’s no enemy there.”

Many, Peterson said, become deeply frustrated because “they wish they could act out on this adrenaline rush and do what they were trained to do but can’t.”

Some soldiers and Marines describe foot patrols as “drawing fire,” and gunmen so often disappear into crowds that many have the feeling that they are fighting ghosts. In roadside ambushes, service men and women may never see the enemy.

Sgt. Benjamin Flanders, 27, a graduate student in math who went to Iraq with the New Hampshire National Guard, recalled: “It was kind of joke: If you got to shoot back at the enemy, people were jealous. It was a stress reliever, a great release, because usually these guys disappear.”

Another powerful factor is ambiguity about the purpose of the mission, and about Iraqi civilians’ perception of the American presence.

On a Sunday in April 2004, Hoyt received orders to visit Marine units that had been trapped in a firefight in a town near the Syrian border and that had lost five men. The Americans had been handing out candy to children and helping local residents fix their houses the day before the ambush, and they felt they had been set up, he said.

The entire unit, he said, was coursing with rage, asking: “What are we doing here? Why aren’t the Iraqis helping us?”

Hoyt added, “There was a breakdown, and some wanted to know how come they couldn’t hit mosques” or other off-limits targets where insurgents were suspected of hiding.

In group sessions, the psychologist emphasized to the Marines that they could not know for sure whether the civilians they had helped had supported the insurgents. Insurgent fighters scare many Iraqis more than the Americans do, he reminded them, and that fear creates a deep ambivalence, even among those who most welcome the American presence. And following the rules of engagement, he told them, was crucial to setting an example.

Hoyt also reminded the group of some of its successes, in rebuilding houses, for example, and restoring electricity in the area.

He also told them it was better to fight here than back home.

“Having someone killed in World War II, you could say, ‘Well, we won this battle to save the world,”’ he said. “In this terrorist war, it is much less tangible how to anchor your losses.”

No one has shown definitively that on-the-spot group or individual therapy in combat lowers the risk of psychological problems later. But military psychiatrists know from earlier wars that separating an individual from his or her unit can significantly worsen feelings of guilt and depression.

About 8 service members per every 1,000 in Iraq have developed psychiatric problems severe enough to require evacuation, according to Defense Department statistics, while the rate of serious psychiatric diagnoses in Vietnam from 1965 to 1969 was more than 10 per 1,000, although improvements in treatment, as well as differences in the conflicts and diagnostic criteria, make a direct comparison very rough, researchers say.

At the same time, Nash and Hoyt say that psychological consultations by returning Marines at Camp Pendleton have been increasing significantly since the war began.

One who comes for regular counseling is Sgt. Robert Willis, who earned a Bronze Star for leading an assault through a graveyard near Najaf in 2004.

Irritable since his return home in February, shaken by loud noises, leery of malls or other areas that are not well-lighted at night — classic signs of post-traumatic stress — Willis has been seeing Hoyt to help adjust to life at home.

“It’s been hard,” Willis said in a telephone interview. “I have been boisterous, overbearing — my family notices it.”

He said he had learned to manage his moods rather than react impulsively, after learning to monitor his thoughts and attend more closely to the reactions of others.

“The turning point, I think, was when Dr. Hoyt told me to simply accept that I was going to be different because of this,” but not mentally ill, Willis said.

The increase in consultations at Camp Pendleton may reflect increasingly taxing conditions, or delayed reactions, experts said. But it may also be evidence that men and women who have fought with ready access to a psychologist or psychiatrist are less constrained by the tough-it-out military ethos and are more comfortable seeking that person’s advice when they get back.

“Seeing someone you remember from real time in combat absolutely could help in treatment,” as well as help overcome the stigma of seeking counseling, said Rachel Yehuda, director of the post-traumatic stress disorder program at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in the Bronx. “If this is what is happening, I think it’s brilliant.”


In the coming months, researchers at Walter Reed who are following combat units after they return home are expected to report that the number of personnel with serious mental symptoms has increased slightly, up from the 17 percent reported last year.

In an editorial last year, Dr. Matthew J. Friedman, executive director of the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for the Department of Veterans Affairs and a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at Dartmouth Medical School, wrote that studies suggested that the rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, in particular, “may increase considerably during the two years after veterans return from combat duty.”

And on the basis of previous studies, Friedman wrote, “it is possible that psychiatric disorders will increase now that the conduct of the war has shifted from a campaign for liberation to an ongoing armed conflict with dissident combatants.”

But others say that the rates of the disorder are just as likely to diminish in the next year, as studies show they do for disaster victims.

Col. Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, psychiatry consultant to the Army surgeon general, said that given the stresses of this war, it was worth noting that five out of six service members who had seen combat did not show serious signs of mental illness.

The emotional casualties, Ritchie said, are “not just an Army medical problem, but a problem that the V.A. system, the civilian system and the society as a whole must work to solve.”

That is the one thing all seem to agree on. Some veterans, like Flanders and Willis, have reconnected with other men in their units to help with their psychological adjustment to home life. Willis has been transferred to noncombat duty at Camp Pendleton, in an environment that he knows and enjoys, and he can see Hoyt when he needs to. Flanders is studying to be an officer.

But others, particularly reservists and National Guard troops, have landed right back in civilian society with no one close to them who has shared their experience.

Pickett, since her return, has felt especially cut off from the company she trained and served with. She has struggled at school, and with the Veterans Affairs system to get counseling, and no one near her has had an experience remotely like hers. She has tried antidepressants, which have helped reduce her suicidal thinking. She has also joined Operation Truth, a nonprofit organization in New York that represents Iraq veterans, which has given her some comfort.

Finally, she said, she has been searching her memory and conscience for reasons to justify the pain of her experience: no one, Pickett said, looks harder for justification than a soldier.

Marlowe, the former chief of psychiatry at Walter Reed, knows from studying other wars that this is so.

“The great change among American troops in Germany during the Second World War was when they discovered the concentration camps,” Marlowe said. “That immediately and forever changed the moral appreciation for why we were there.”

As soldiers return from Iraq, he said, “it will be enormously important for those who feel psychologically disaffected to find something which justifies the killing, and the death of their friends.”

December 6, 2005

Patrolling Haqlaniyah

On patrol with the Raiders of Kilo Company in Haqlaniyah

HAQLANIYAH, IRAQ: The drive from Haditha Dam to Haglaniyah was fast and furious. The night starts with a ride in the back of an open 7 ton transport with a crew from Sky News and a team of Marines. The convoy roared down the roads at high speed during the night in blackout conditions, making turns a truck that large had no right making. The trip from the dam to Raider Nation, the foward position of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion,1st Marines, was low key save some interesting driving.

By Bill Roggio

Raider Nation is one of four outposts in Haqlaniyah. The bulk of the company is stationed at Raider Nation, along with a platoon of Iraq soldiers. The other three outposts are Black Hole to the north of Haqlaniyah, TCP to the west, and K3 to the south. Lima Company sits to the east of the river in Barwana. Kilo Company’s three outposts contain a platoon of Iraqi infantry and one squad of Marines who acts as advisors in addition to their duties.

Checkpoints have been established into and out of the city, which allows Kilo to monitor traffic. The Raiders have cleared each house in the city since Operation Rivergate, and over 35 significant weapons caches have been discovered in the process. One find contained over 100 large caliber artillery shells. The Raiders also agressively patrol the desert regions to the west and south of the city to interdict insurgent mortar teams.

Haqlaniyah is a markedly different town than Husaybah. The residents are more educated, and there are many professionals who work at the dam or in other industry in the area. The streets are cleaner, the people’s dress is more western and there are more expensive cars on the road.

Residents of Haqlaniyah Speaking with Interpreter.

The Marines based out of Raider Nation aggressively patrol the city jointly with Iraqi Army troops. Today I walked the city with 1st Squad from the Raider’s 2nd Platoon. The squad is led by Corporal Joe Sanchez, a tough Marine who is on his third tour of duty in Iraq.

Today’s mission was to escort a psychological operations team from Detatchment 930, Company A, 9th POV out of Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. Contrary to the common negative perceptions about their mission; psyops responsibility is to provide information on local elections and information on the Coalition’s reconstruction efforts. A campaign of deliberate misinformation would render the unit inneffective.

The the psyops team is lead by Sergeant Rivers, and today’s assignment was to distribute leaflets and place posters on the walls with information on the election to the residents of Haqlaniya. Sgt.Rivers was adament that this was a job for the accompanying Iraqi troops; “This is their election, and they need to do the work.”

The Iraqi units based out of Haqlaniyah are raw troops, fresh out of training. The Marines here do not speak as highly of them as the tough Iraqis of the 1st Divison they fought with in Fallujah. But there is an understanding that the Iraqi troops they work with are in their infancy, and there is much room for improvement.

Iraqi Troops Hanging Election Posters in Haqlaniyah.

On today’s patrol, the Iraqi troops were not quite as disciplined as those I walked with in Husaybah, but they were capable. They enthusiastically hung the posters and handed out the election flyers to the numerous residents they encountered. Afterwards at the squad’s debrief, Cpl. Sanchez stated “the Iraqi troops performed their mission out there today.”

The walk was relatively uneventful. Two shots from what is belived to be an AK-47 were heard, but their origin was not determined. A car that was on a watchlist for acting as a getaway vehicle in a past shooting was identified, and weaved out of the traffic to elude the patrol. Lance Corporal Randy Lake gave chase on foot, and the psyops Humvee attempted to pursue, but the car escaped.

Just a week ago mortar and small arms fire was common at Raider Nation. The past few days have been quiet in Haqlaniyah and the surrounding areas.

1st Squad, 2nd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines.

Military funeral protests up for challenge

Lieutenant governor will push legislation to control controversial church


By Jack Komperda
Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The signs still haunt Jesse Alcozer.

On the day he would bury his 21-year-old son, Christopher, an Army private from Villa Park who died Nov. 19 while serving in Iraq, protesters stood across the street from the church, holding placards that read “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.”

All Jesse Alcozer saw was the hate in the signs and the distraction it served to keep him and his family from properly mourning his son’s death.

“For (soldiers) to come back and be faced by radicals that don’t respect them, it shouldn’t be like this,” said Alcozer, himself a Vietnam War veteran.

Now Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, who spoke at the funeral, is trying to spare military families the extra grief the Alcozers experienced. He’s proposed a state law that would prohibit protesting within 300 feet of any military or civilian funeral.

The law would also ban protests 30 minutes before, during and 30 minutes after funeral services within the football field-sized buffer zone.

“The sadness of the families is only increased by the revolting behavior of this hate group,” said Quinn, who also attended three other downstate military funerals where the same group of protesters showed up.

The group, the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., has protested at military funerals around the country. Its message is that the war deaths are a divine payback for a society tolerant of homosexuality.

Quinn’s proposed law could come before the Illinois legislature sometime in January.

And members of the Westboro group are already promising a legal challenge should it become law.

“It’s real simple. This is America,” said Shirley Phelps-Roper, among the six protesters at Alcozer’s funeral last week. “We have a First Amendment. You may not turn First Amendment laws into a crime.”

Last month, officials in Inola, Okla., passed a similar law prohibiting any protest within 500 feet of a church, cemetery or funeral home. That was to stop the same group from disrupting the funeral of a local soldier.

Inola Mayor Sheryl Charles said the Topeka group sent a letter threatening to sue the town and Phelps-Roper said her group has been successful in fending off the enactment of similar laws by other communities.

Whether the proposed Illinois law could withstand a legal challenge from church members depends in large part on how broadly it’s written, said Ed Yohnka, a spokesman from the American Civil Liberties Union’s Chicago office.

“A broadly drafted law may have an unintended consequence,” he said. “But it certainly raises questions about the degree people will go to in order to articulate their viewpoint. There is some concern that the issue (of Westboro Baptist Church) is one of just trying to get attention.”

Now the group is planning to show up at this week’s funeral for Adam Kaiser, the 19-year-old Naperville Central High School graduate who was among the 10 Marines killed Thursday in Fallujah, Iraq.

The group also plans protests this month at the sites of other fallen servicemen from Illinois.

“We don’t want to be in their laps,” Phelps-Roper said. “We just want to deliver a message to them.”

Christopher Alcozer’s mother, Kathy, prays Kaiser’s family will be spared the added suffering.

“It was a horrible, difficult day,” she said of her son’s funeral. “To make it worse by people who call themselves Christians is just unconscionable. There’s got to be a better way than to desecrate someone’s memory. … How do you justify that? This group has got to be sad and pitiful.”

Marines died inside old mill

BAGHDAD, Iraq — The Marine Corps updated their report Tuesday on the deaths of 10 Marines on Dec. 1.


By Sameer N. Yacoub
Associated Press

BAGHDAD, Iraq — The Marine Corps updated their report Tuesday on the deaths of 10 Marines on Dec. 1.

The statement said the Marines from Company F, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, were not on a foot patrol, as previously reported, but were inside an abandoned flour mill when they were killed by an explosion. The troops used the mill as a temporary patrol base.

The statement said the Marines had gathered in the mill for a promotion ceremony. The military suspects one of the Marines triggered a booby trap, causing the explosion, the statement said.

“Explosive experts believe four artillery shells were buried in two separate locations,” it read.

Also on Tuesday, the U.S. military said a soldier assigned to Task Force Baghdad was killed when a patrol hit a roadside bomb Sunday. At least 2,129 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war, according to an Associated Press count.

Two suicide bombers struck Baghdad’s police academy Tuesday, killing at least 27 people and wounding 50 more, U.S. officials said, while Al-Jazeera broadcast an insurgent video claiming to have kidnapped a U.S. security consultant.

Iraqi police estimated the death toll could reach 40, with about 70 police officers and students wounded. Five female police officers were among the dead, police Maj. Falah al-Mohammedawi said.

The suicide attackers were wearing explosives-laden vests and a U.S. contractor was among those wounded, a U.S. military statement said. U.S. forces rushed to the scene to provide assistance, the statement said. The military initially said the bombers were women but later retracted the statement.

“One of the suicide bombers detonated near a group of students outside a classroom,” the Task Force Baghdad said. “Thinking the explosion was an indirect-fire attack, (Iraqi police) and students fled to a bunker for shelter where the second bomber detonated his vest.”

Five female police officers were among the dead, Iraqi police said.

“We were sitting in the yard when we heard an explosion,” said police Maj. Wisam al-Heyali. “Seconds later, we were hit by another explosion as we were running. I saw some of my colleagues falling down and I felt my hand hit, but I kept on running.”

Insurgents have concentrated their attacks against Iraqi security forces. Tuesday’s attack was the deadliest against Iraqi forces since Feb. 28, when a suicide car bomber attacked mostly Shiite police and National Guard recruits in Hillah, killing 125.

The video broadcast on Al-Jazeera showed a blond, Western-looking man sitting with his hands tied behind his back. The video also bore the logo of the Islamic Army in Iraq and showed a U.S. passport and an identification card.

The authenticity of the video could not be immediately confirmed.

If true, the man would become the second American taken hostage in the last two weeks. A U.S. citizen was among four peace activists taken hostage on Nov. 27 by a group calling itself the Swords of Righteousness. Two Canadians and a Briton were also part of that group.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Looking on the Bright Side

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - A Baton Rouge, La. native was presented the Purple Heart Medal here Nov. 30 for injuries he suffered while deployed to Iraq in September. (2/2 Marine)


Marine Corps News | Mike Escobar | December 06, 2005

Lance Cpl. Ryan Cahill, an infantryman with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, and several members of his unit had been searching for improvised explosive devices in Karmah, a city outside Fallujah, at the time he was injured.

“The IED went off about five to 10 yards from the humvee I was driving,” said the 19-year-old Cahill.

“There was a lot of confusion that followed, because I didn’t know where anyone else was,” he continued, explaining that his surroundings were ‘smoked out’ from the dust and debris the blast had kicked up. “The shrapnel had come up from underneath the humvee. I ended up with a nice-sized piece of shrapnel lodged (on the underside of) my right knee.”

Cahill, a 2004 graduate of Tara High School, added that his humvee continued coasting for approximately 80 yards further. He was unable to see where he was going and had lost mobility in his right leg.

Shortly after, the vehicle tumbled into a nine-foot deep canal running alongside the rural road.

Cahill was subsequently sent stateside to receive medical care, and he currently resides at the Wounded Warrior Barracks here. Under the care of the Injured Support Unit (ISU), he claimed to have experienced an 80 percent recovery, a number that increases as the weeks go by.

Within this barracks, Cahill said he and fellow rehabilitating Marines are given ample time to relax and recover as they attend their surgeries and physical therapy sessions at the nearby sports medicine clinic.

Cahill cited this care as a determining factor in his recovery.

“The program here is really awesome,” he said. “I feel I’ve received the best medical attention possible. I’ll be back to full duty eventually.”

Nevertheless, he often deals with boredom and restlessness as he waits to someday rejoin the infantry. He jogs, lifts weights and converses with his fellow Marines to spend what he describes as his ample free time.

“Sometimes it seems like there’s nothing to do here, but at least we’re getting plenty of sleep,” Cahill stated. “I know some of the guys in my unit who are still over there would give anything just to spend one day in my shoes.”

“Every day has its ups and downs, and sometimes, I start wondering if I’ll ever be able to do everything the way I used to,” he continued. “Whenever I get down about something, I think about that and remember that I still have my leg, so I really have no room to complain.”

Deployed Troops and Their Families Joined During Holidays via Webcasts by National Tour of 'Operation Best Wishes'

Scores of military families are webcasting (via video and audio) special holiday greetings to loved ones serving overseas during the national tour of "Operation Best Wishes."


--(Business Wire)--

The 2005 bicoastal tour opened before Thanksgiving at Marine Federal Credit Union in Jacksonville, North Carolina and Navy Federal Credit Union in Norfolk, Virginia. The tour continues this weekend at host credit unions on Naval Air Station North Island and Camp Pendleton (hosts of the 2004 debut of Operation Best Wishes), before moving on to the closing session in Pasadena on the 14th. During each recording session, families are given 10 minutes each on a high-speed webcast channel to exchange holiday greetings and cheer with their deployed family members. The program is a complimentary service offered by credit unions through WesCorp Federal Credit Union in San Dimas and CIA Studios of San Juan Capistrano.

-- Military stationed abroad will view and respond to their loved ones' messages "LIVE" or access the greeting at any convenient time from the event's Website, www.operationbestwishes.com.

-- To personalize their Internet holiday greetings, many children of the families even plan to dress in reindeer, Santa's helpers and other Christmas costumes.

-- Some 325 military families are expected to record personalized greetings during this year's tour, softening the separation and anxiety associated with deployment over the holiday season.

-- Operation Best Wishes debuted last year in Southern California with more than 125 family members and friends webcasting holiday messages. -0- *

T WHEN and WHERE: DEC. 9TH & 10TH (9:00 AM -- 6:00 PM) NORTH ISLAND CREDIT UNION Naval Air Station North Island -- Building 318 Coronado, CA 92135 (Access to Naval installation is Restricted -- Please notify contacts in advance for info and escort)

DEC. 11TH & 12TH (9:00 AM -- 6:00 PM) PACIFIC MARINE CREDIT UNION Camp Pendleton -- MCX Complex Camp Pendleton, CA 92055 (Access is Restricted -- Please notify contacts in advance for security clearance info and escort) MORE INFO: www.operationbestwishes.com *T

Communications battalion transforms into combat team for convoy operations

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq(Dec. 6, 2005) -- Marines from Force Protection Platoon, 8th Communications Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Headquarters Group, II MEF (FWD), prove on a daily basis they are not just communication savvy.


Submitted by:
II Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD)
Story by:
Computed Name: Cpl. Heidi E. Loredo

Story Identification #:

These 26 men, who are at the tip of the spear behind the armored metal of military vehicles, provide much more than their communication ability; they easily transform into a lethal combat team for convoy operations.

On a day where many Marines and sailors enjoyed a warm Thanksgiving dinner aboard Camp Fallujah, Marines from Force Protection Platoon traveled through the streets of Fallujah to an outpost in the city to take a little piece of heaven to their brothers-in-arms; mail and a Thanksgiving dinner.

Their day began after a convoy brief, where they received intelligence updates and rehearsed immediate action procedures should they encounter an enemy attack. They loaded up their vehicles with gear and weapons and then prepared for their mission.

After dodging civilians and traffic jams during their maneuvers through the streets, the Marines arrived to a grateful group.

“I have been with the battalion since July of last year,” said 1st Sgt. Mcezelvias Corbin Jr., battalion first sergeant. “I found out real quick 8th Communications Battalion wears many hats. The Marines are far more proficient in their (military occupational specialty.) This is noticeable by the many outside agencies that seek out their expertise to work for them in the civilian sector.”

Force Protection Platoon’s expertise allows them to disperse within the compound for various jobs, however their main focus leads them outside the wire.

“Our basic job is to provide security within the interior guard around the compound and also provide convoy security for the battalion,” said Sgt. Christopher Bruck, platoon sergeant, Force Protection Platoon. “The platoon is comprised of Marines who hold a variety of MOSs, such as wiremen and radio operators.”

The team is trained in every aspect of infantry unit tactics including convoy operations, urban warfare and reaction drills.

“The Marines are a self-contained unit with all the assets needed to execute urban warfare tactics, reactionary to [improvised explosive device] attacks, improvised mine reactionary tactics, call for fire and the list goes on,” said Corbin.

The communications team, who arrived to Camp Fallujah on their first deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in August, takes on other missions outside of the battalion for II MHG, II MEF (FWD).

“When we go on convoys we pretty much run the show,” said Bruck. “We could be an [infantry] unit in our own little world here. We’re like the outcasts in the battalion. Everybody wants to be us, but everybody hates us.”

If the men from 8th Communications Bn. are not out on a convoy, they are continuously training or standing post around the compound.

“The Marines are a total package, and this is a testament of the hundreds of convoy operations they have conducted while in country with no fatality or injuries to Marines or damage to equipment,” said Corbin. “1st Lt. Conrad Wiedemann, Staff Sgt. Daniel Sankey and Staff Sgt. Christopher Ransom run a tight team and are commended on their focus of effort and attention to detail on every operation.”

Force Protection Platoon’s leaders ensure every Marine on the team thoroughly understands the mission at hand.

“Our mission is to deliver and pick up supplies, passengers and any other miscellaneous gear,” said Bruck. “It's a basic convoy, and we provide the security to make sure the mission gets done safely."

Please feel free to publish this story or any of the accompanying photos. If used, please give credit to the writer/photographer, and contact us at: [email protected] so we can update our records.

From supply clerk to interpreter to Purple Heart recipient

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.(Dec. 6, 2005) -- While serving as an interpreter with 2nd Military Police Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, Lance Cpl. Amber R. Price of Greenville, N.C., a supply clerk with 2nd Supply Battalion, 2nd MLG, traveled in several convoys during her time in Iraq, but, unbeknownst to her, the one on Aug. 13 would be her last.


Submitted by:
MCB Camp Lejeune
Story by:
Computed Name: Cpl. Matthew K. Hacker
Story Identification #:

Price was riding in the lead Humvee in a convoy taking supplies from Camp Taqaddum, Iraq, to Camp Fallujah, Iraq, when an overwhelming explosion rang out on the right side of the road.

Price was sitting in the back seat on the right, when the vehicle was forced to the other side of the roadway, causing her to be thrown to the left side of the cabin.

The force from the explosion sent Price soaring across the cabin where she slammed her face into the air conditioning unit.

“My face immediately went numb, and all I could see after I opened my eyes was blood,” said Price. “Blood was streaming down my face and onto my flak jacket, and I couldn’t see. I tried to catch some of it with my hands, there was too much going on to care.”

The Humvee remained on all four wheels, but the blast slid it across the street as the engine compartment burst into flames.

Air support, which had been flying above to watch out for improvised explosive devices and hostile forces, quickly landed and pulled the Marines from the burning Humvee. Price was airlifted, along with three injured Marines, from the blast site to the hospital on Ballad Air Base.

After being treated at the hospital, Price learned that the concussion from the explosion and the strike to her face caused a blood vessel in her eye to rupture.

Since Price was nearing the end of her deployment, she remained in country for the duration, but was ordered to take it easy for the remainder.

After returning home to Camp Lejeune on Sept. 13, Price received her Purple Heart Medal from Col. John M. Burt, commanding officer, 2nd Supply Battalion, 2nd MLG, during an awards ceremony Nov. 22.

The blood vessel is Price’s eye has healed over the past few months, but the trauma has left behind some serious problems. She will most likely need to endure surgery for a complete repair.

“I don’t even really think about it now,” said Price. “I’ve learned to live with the fact that it happened and that I’m lucky to be alive today. I really am.”

Although Price has lived through a tragedy and an experience most other participants do not, she tries to stay positive in her work and her current engagement to be married in June 2006.

Remains of Marine killed in Korean battle identified

UTICA, N.Y. (AP) _ The remains of a U.S. Marine from Utica have been identified more than 50 years after he died while fighting in the Korean War, a published report said Tuesday.


December 6, 2005, 3:22 PM EST

Pfc. John Ward was killed during the retreat from the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea in 1950. The North Koreans didn't hand over his remains until four years later.

Ward's unidentified remains were laid to rest in a grave in Hawaii's National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Military officials said Ward's identification was delayed for decades because of errors with his dental records, according to the Observer-Dispatch of Utica. Forensics experts then revisited the case and identified him using corrected dental records and a fingerprint from his files.

Ward's sister, Elenita Ashley of Titusville, Pa., recalled the day her family was told her brother was missing in action.

"It was a Sunday and it sticks in my mind. It was the first time I saw my father cry," Ashley told the newspaper.

Upon hearing that her brother's remains were identified, Ashley said she was in "utter disbelief."

Ward would be 76 now, according to relatives. His family plans to have him reburied at Arlington National Cemetery.

Copyright 2005 Newsday Inc.

Fallen Marine set goals for himself, and achieved them

The flag at Naperville Central High School flew at half-staff Monday in honor of the school's second graduate to die serving in the war in Iraq.


By Tim Waldorf

Lance Cpl. Adam Wade Kaiser, 19, was one of 10 Marines killed last Thursday in the deadliest attack on American troops in Iraq in the past four months.

Kaiser, a 2004 Central graduate, joined the Marines in October 2004 and left for Iraq to serve as a rifleman in July. On Thursday, a roadside bomb exploded while his unit was on a foot patrol near Fallujah.

Kaiser was known at home and around Central as a quiet kid with an intense focus on his goals.

David Kalal, a driver-education teacher at Central, had Kaiser as a student when he was a sophomore.

"He was a very quiet kid, but was one of those kids you loved to have in class," Kalal said.

"He showed up every day, and he was always on time. He never gave you any trouble. He never stirred the pot, so to speak.

"You could tell he was a very focused individual.He was kind of one of those kids who had a goal in life and was focused on getting it done."

Kaiser kept a small but close group of friends, Kalal said, and he "didn't get caught up in high school."

Erik Abderhalden was one of those friends. The two met in the fourth grade at Meadow Glens Elementary School, attended Madison Junior High School and Naperville Central together, and graduated in 2004. That was the last time Abderhalden recalled seeing Kaiser.

The Adam Kaiser that Abderhalden knew was not as quiet as most people remember him. Abderhalden, now a sophomore at Illinois State University, recalled the crazy stories Kaiser would tell about the rabbits his family kept as pets, and the concoctions he'd make while playing with his lunch in junior high.

"Around friends, he was a nice guy and always had something to say," Abderhalden said. "He was really funny. If you knew him, he'd be doing jokes right and left."

It was no surprise when Kaiser decided in his senior year that he would join the Marines, Abderhalden said. That was his longtime goal.

"He had goals, and he achieved them," Abderhalden said.

Funeral services for Kaiser will be at 10 a.m. Friday at Beidelman-Kunsch Funeral Home, 2401 W. Royal Worlington Drive. Interment will be at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood. Visitation will take place from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at the funeral home.

He is survived by his parents, Wade and Christine, both of Romeoville; a sister, Sarah; and a twin sister, Amanda.

Contact staff writer Tim Waldorf at [email protected] or (630) 416-5270.


Dad and son Marines facing flak on Iraq

SHAWNEE, Kan. Since Chris Phelps, 35, returned from his second tour in Iraq in October, he has tried to ignore the debate about the war in Congress and the media. He stopped reading newspapers. He won’t watch the news on TV. He turned off the news radio channel in the car.


Tuesday, December 6, 2005
By P.J. Huffstutter Los Angeles Times

His father, Kendall Phelps, 58, is doing the same thing.

The two Marines, who served in the same unit in Iraq, came home a few weeks ago. But after President Bush’s recent speech about the future of the military in the Middle East, the men say that home has become a more conflicted place than when they boarded planes for the Al Anbar province nine months ago. For two men who believe strongly in the cause, the political brouhaha is baffling.

“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished and what we’re doing over there,” Chris said. “But there’s such conflict. The government told us this was our patriotic duty to be there. Now, there’s talk about backing off before the mission’s done.

“If we can’t finish what we went over there for, then why do this in the first place? It’d be foolish for us to leave now.”


Not long ago, life seemed far simpler.

Kendall Phelps, a Vietnam veteran and high school music teacher in Silver Lake, retired from the Marine Reserve in 1999, when military rules required him to leave after 30 years’ service.

When his son Chris was sent on his first Iraq tour in 2003, Kendall swore he would persuade the Marine Reserve to take him back and allow him to fight by his son’s side. In an unusual move, prompted in part because of Kendall’s teaching background, the Marines agreed.

The men departed for Iraq within days of each other. Kendall Phelps left behind four other grown children, six grandchildren and Sherma, 57, his wife of 37 years. Chris Phelps said goodbye to his wife, Lisa, and four small boys, now ages 7 and younger.

The men were assigned to the 5th Civil Affairs Group, whose mission was to help Iraqis open schools, train police, build roads and set up local governments. Reservists, drawn from a nationwide pool, dominated the 193-member unit. During its seven-month tour in Iraq, at least six Marines were injured and one officer was killed.

In their recently completed tour, Chris spent his days on security patrols to Fallujah; snipers in Ramadi routinely shot at Kendall.

Upon Chris and Kendall’s return, the excitement of their being home was quickly followed by questions.


“After the first tour, I came back to people slapping me on the back in congratulations,” Chris said. “Now, people are still slapping me on the back. The next thing out of their mouth is, ‘Don’t you think it’s time for us to leave?’ ”

Neighbors and friends held parades and parties to honor the Phelpses in their hometown of Silver Lake, about 75 miles west of Kansas City. And they asked: Haven’t you given enough? Risked enough?

Again and again, the men answered that they were not giving anything more, or anything less, than any other Marine.

Chris has tried to reach out to the community, speaking to local schools and volunteer organizations in an effort to explain why he believes the military shouldn’t pull out of Iraq just yet.

On a recent evening inside an elementary school cafeteria near his home in Shawnee, Chris talked to several dozen Cub Scouts and their parents about his experiences.

He told them how the Iraqis were excited about the idea of holding elections. How Iraqi children attend schools with no blackboards, no books and no playgrounds. How children played in the streets, despite the danger of sniper fire.

“We promised these people that we would help them change their country,” Chris said. “When you make a promise, it’s important that you keep it. We need to be there and finish what we’ve started.”

A somber-faced boy in the back raised his hand, and asked, “What started the war? Why are we there?”

Chris opened his mouth to answer, but no words came. He quickly changed the subject.

The military has said it would welcome having Kendall , a master gunnery sergeant, and Chris, a major, voluntarily head back to Iraq in the spring.


If the two men return, they may encounter another family member: Joshua Phelps, 22, Chris’ younger brother, is applying to the Marines’ officer training program.

When Joshua told his dad and brother about his decision to sign up, Chris and Kendall were torn. They were proud that Joshua would honor his family tradition and support his country. But neither could tell the enthusiastic young recruit about the horrors he could face.

“How do I explain what you have to experience firsthand?” Chris said. “He’s old enough to make his own decisions. He’s old enough to do this.”

Josh let his father break the news to the rest of the family.

“Things were finally getting back to normal, and now this,” said Sherma. “I don’t want to think about the future.”

Kendall contacted the Marine Corps to see if there was a way he could remain in the service — but not return to Iraq.

“It would be too hard on Sherma to have all three of us gone,” Kendall said. “It’s too much to ask, too big of a risk.”

Eglin Marine Honored with Silver Star

A Marine at Eglin Air Force Base was recently honored with the country's third-highest medal for valor.


[email protected]

A Marine at Eglin Air Force Base was recently honored with the country's third-highest medal for valor.

Staff Sgt. Jason Navarrette, an instructor at the Naval Explosive Ordinance Disposal School at Eglin, received the Silver Star for saving his comrades in Iraq.

Navarrette was a technician in a Marine Expeditionary Force unit when his team was ambushed in Iraq. While helping stranded Marines, he suffered a gunshot wound to his left arm. He did not let that stop him from saving other marines.

In addition to the Silver Star, Navarrette was honored with a Purple Heart.

This is the 24th Silver Star awarded since the start of the War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Send comments or suggestions to [email protected]

Bases now part of new airport search

SAN DIEGO ---- Against its will, the military was drafted Monday to join the search for the location of the county's next commercial airport.


By: MARK WALKER - Staff Writer

Despite protests from base officials, Camp Pendleton, Miramar Marine Corps Air Station and North Island Naval Air Station will be examined to see if their air fields could be shared with commercial passenger and cargo aircraft or become home to a new airport.

The decision to study the bases came Monday afternoon when the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority ended months of speculation about how it would treat military facilities in its search for a new airport site. The nine-member board voted unanimously to spend as much as $5 million to study the bases' potential for what is officially being termed "shared or joint use."

"We owe it to the public to study the bases," board member Paul Peterson said.

Downtown San Diego's Lindbergh Field is the nation's busiest single-runway airport, forecast to be unable to handle expected increases in airline passenger and cargo demand by about the year 2020, and the authority has been charged with expanding it or finding a new airport location.

The board's vote came after base officials spent more than an hour outlining why they do not believe the bases are appropriate for anything other than military purposes. The bases had been off limits for authority consideration until the recent round of nationwide base closures, which had no major consequences for any local facilities, was completed.

Prior to voting, several board members pointed out state legislation that created the authority and ceded control of the airport from the Unified Port of San Diego. That law included a directive to study military and civilian sites for a new regional airport.

Board member Paul Nieto said that despite serious doubts over whether any base could in fact be part of the region's long-term civilian air needs, the studies are necessary.

Board member Bill Lynch said the military brass needs to be asked "how much they are willing to compromise."

Any such compromise won't come easy.

Miramar Col. Greg Goodman, Pendleton community liaison Larry Reynolds and Cmdr. Mike Phillips from North Island Naval Air Station each made presentations arguing against any consideration of their bases.

"Encroachment on any (military) facilities is an encroachment on all our facilities," Phillips told the nine-member authority board.

Goodman said converting Miramar to a civilian airport is out of the question. Sharing the base with civilian passenger and cargo aircraft or constructing a second air field on the base's eastern section would lead to the loss of housing, create serious airspace issues and threaten base security, he said.

Miramar is considered by many the most logical new airport site because of its central county location, easy freeway access and more than 23,000 acres of land.

Reynolds told the board and an overflow audience of more than 70 people at the airport's Commuter Terminal that Camp Pendleton was simply no place for a commercial airport or a place where civilian and military jets can mix.

"Absolutely, positively not doable at Camp Pendleton," Reynolds began.

He said the 200-square-mile base outside of Oceanside needs all of its land for training and all of its airspace for the missile, mortar and artillery practice as well as the fixed-wing aircraft and 180 helicopters that use Pendleton.

The trio of military representatives also said that despite numerous examples of shared-use airports around the country, none come close to the air operations each base conducts annually and the more than 215,000 takeoffs and landings at Lindbergh.

North County's two representatives on the airport board, Vista Mayor Morris Vance and Oceanside's Robert Maxwell, said that while they do not believe Pendleton will ultimately be a site of shared use, it too has to be studied.

"The mandate is there and we have to do it," Vance said.

Working from an original list of 32 possible new airport sites, the authority has the base sites as well as three civilian locations still on its candidate list. The civilian sites are Imperial County just east of the San Diego County line along Interstate 8, Campo in the southeastern portion of the county and the possible but extremely challenging expansion of Lindbergh.

Nominally on the list are Borrego Springs, which is not getting any further study, and March Air Reserve Base in Southwest Riverside County, which also will not get any further study.

At the urging of authority board member Mary Sessom, the list of civilian sites could be augmented next week with the reconsideration of a site east of Escondido known as Rancho Guejito. The site was considered in 2002 but dropped.

Sessom wants Rancho Guejito or some other North County site given renewed consideration as a possible "supplement" to Lindbergh.

The authority has set an April deadline to come up with a recommendation for a new airport. Its decision will go before county voters next November as an advisory issue.

If the a new airport is built, it would be funded by federal grants and airport revenues with no local tax dollars dedicated to its construction.

North County Times Editor Kent Davy will host the next town hall for the general public on the airport site selection, a session set for 6-8 p.m. Jan. 19 at Vista City Hall.

Contact staff writer Mark Walker at (760) 740-3529 or [email protected]

Veteran Resources

When a soldier does return home it is only natural to show signs of Post Traumatic Stress.


By Carla Castano

Springfield -

Anger outbursts, substance abuse, and paranoia are some common problems returning service member can face.

The recent suicide of a Marine from Springfield has his family hoping others will be more aware of what to look for.

Other than mood swings 20 year old Chris Forcum didn't show signs of Post Traumatic Stress before he killed himself six weeks after returning home from Iraq, now the Marine's family hopes others can learn from their tragedy.

Experts we talked to say most returning service members go through some level of Post Traumatic Stress.

In some cases clinical intervention and medication is needed.

Lon Laughlin with the VA Health Care Center says, "It is really important for transition purposes for the families to just stay aware and stay present for their soldier."

Counselors admit is can be difficult to tell how they are doing, especially considering there are so many different triggers.

Joseph Reiley with Lane County Veterans' Services says "one thing we're seeing with operation Iraqi Freedom veterans are problems associated with driving."

Even if a vet doesn't think he needs help a family member can make a referral to veteran's services.

Veterans service representatives say sometimes counseling or other services are needed years after deployment and those vets may also qualify for help.

Anyone who served in a combat theater is eligible for two years of free VA health care but they have to ask for it.

For more information on what resources are available call(541)682-4191 or (541)465-6918.

Slain soldier from Tomah always wanted military career

TOMAH, Wis. — As a child, Andy Stevens drew military pictures, a family friend said Monday.


By Bob Kliebenstein | Lee Newspapers

“He knew he wanted to be in the military when he was born,” said Chris Pokela, a longtime friend of Stevens’ older sister, Amy Pelle. “It was his destiny.”

Stevens, 29, a Tomah High School graduate, was among 10 U.S. Marines killed Dec. 1 in an explosion while on foot patrol near Fallujah, Iraq.

Pokela said Stevens, six years younger than his sister, was a typical little brother who liked to “joke around.”

“He was a character, and he liked to laugh,” said Pokela.

But Stevens was serious about one thing, even as a child: He wanted to be a soldier.

Dale Stafslein, choir director when Stevens was at Tomah High School, agreed with Pokela that the young Stevens set his future plans early.

“He knew he wanted to go into the military,” Stafslein said.

“He worked hard at school, he did what he was supposed to do. Andy was not a class clown. He was a good student,” said Stafslein, now a Sparta High School administrator.

Stevens, a sergeant, joined the Marines in June 1995, just after graduating from Tomah High. He was deployed to Iraq in July as a scout sniper, the Marine Corps said.

All 10 Marines killed were assigned to 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Twentynine Palms, Calif. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, the unit was attached to 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward).

His father, Al Stevens, was a longtime Tomah High teacher who still lives in Tomah. Mother Kaye Olson lives in Maryland Heights, Mo.

Stafslein said Stevens occasionally visited the Tomah school after graduating, while his father was still teaching.

“You could tell he was proud about what he was doing in the military,” Stafslein said.

Pokela, who works at a Tomah bank, met with the Stevens family this weekend after news came of his death. He had kept in touch with Stevens’ sister, a classmate since kindergarten, even after she moved to Rice Lake, Wis.

Stevens’ other passion was snowboarding, Pokela said, noting he posed with a snowboard for his senior class photo in the 1995 Tomah High yearbook.

“It was his winter sport,” Pokela said.

Funeral arrangements for Stevens are pending at the Torkelson Funeral Home in Tomah.

Stevens is the 50th soldier from Wisconsin killed in action in Iraq, but the second in two weeks to have ties to Monroe County.

Pfc. Anthony Alex Gaunky, 19, of Sparta, died Nov. 18 from injuries he received when the Humvee he was riding in was deliberately struck by a civilian vehicle in Beiji, Iraq. Gaunky’s funeral was Nov. 27.

Stafslein, who lives in Tomah, is watching a second community and school district struggle to deal with a soldier’s death.

“With Fort McCoy here, you always wondered how it would eventually affect the area,” Stafslein said.

Bob Kliebenstein is a reporter for the Tomah Journal/Monitor-Herald

U.S.-Iraq Operation Rams targets insurgents

Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Tuesday, December 6, 2005

BAGHDAD — More than 500 U.S. and Iraqi soldiers have launched Operation Rams, the latest in a series of “disruption operations” targeting entrenched insurgents in the western Iraq city of Ramadi, the U.S. military said Monday.

To continue reading:


150 Local Marines Head To Iraq

Dec. 5 - Some local Marines have been called up to fight the war. There are 150 Marine reserves headed for Iraq where they will take on one of the war's most dangerous duties. (1/14)


KGO By Lyanne Melendez

Dec. 5 - Some local Marines have been called up to fight the war. There are 150 Marine reserves headed for Iraq where they will take on one of the war's most dangerous duties.

In a few months, these Marine reservists will be policing Iraq. The 1st Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment has the latest protective gear which includes a flack jacket with two ballistic plates.

Sgt. Maj. Enrique Borgzinner, U.S. Marine Corps: "He's got this on the front and on the back which adds an additional 18 pounds total to his gear."

Lnc. Cpl. Mark Harvey, Marine reservist: "We've been training for the last 18 months preparing for this mission, so I feel very prepared."

They are also realistic. The mission is dangerous and they've heard or read about the suicide bombings.

Lnc. Cpl. Jose Anguiano, Marine reservist, San Jose: "I'm concerned just because there is so much out there, but I feel with my training that I've gone through, and the Marines ready to go, I feel pretty safe."

Initially they were trained in artillery, but the mission changed. Now they will be part of a military police battalion with about 1,000 Marine reservists from around the nation.

Sgt. Maj. Enrique Borgzinner: "What changes is that instead of shooting large artillery pieces we are down to individual weapons."

For that, they will continue training in southern California for two more months. Security is always an issue, so their exact location in Iraq and the date they will be deployed is not being revealed."

What we do know is they will be in Iraq for seven to eight months before returning home. The holidays will be spent away from family.

Town mourns loss of 10 Marines

The Iraq war weighs heavily on people in Twentynine Palms, Calif., a small desert town adjacent to the sprawling military base where Marines are trained to fight.


By Alan Levin
USA Today

Nearly everyone in town knows someone in Iraq — or a service member who was wounded or died there, local residents and merchants say.

Local folks “can feel the frustration, anger and sorrow” in ways that people elsewhere across the country do not, said Nick “Catfish” Carl, a tattoo artist whose shop caters almost exclusively to Marines.

That weight grew a little heavier Thursday, when 10 Marines from Twentynine Palms were killed in a blast near Fallujah, Iraq. A device made from artillery shells blew up as they were on foot patrol.

“This is the biggest loss we’ve had at one time at our base,” said 1st Lt. Christy Kercheval, the base’s spokeswoman. “This makes for a very somber mood.”

The Marines who died came from Arizona, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas and Wisconsin.

They were in the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment and were among the 8,500 troops permanently assigned to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms.

The city is about 125 miles east of Los Angeles.

Nearly every Marine who serves in a combat unit eventually goes to Twentynine Palms to participate in live-fire exercises and desert training, Kercheval said.

“I don’t watch the news,” said Jennifer Ebeling, a waitress at the Twentynine Palms Inn who rooms with two Marines. “We have to ignore (it) ... most of the time just so you don’t end up worrying yourself to death.”

John Baker, a former Marine who tends bar at the Cactus, said everyone in town mourns a loss like the deaths last week.

Carl said that he would hate to be making the political decisions behind the war. “We hope that things will come out well” for Marines at Twentynine Palms, he said. “Some of them are straight out of high school. It’s a hard deal.”

A total of 75 Marines from the base have died in Iraq, Kercheval said. Thursday’s deaths, along with others announced Friday, raised the number of U.S. service members identified as having died in Iraq to 2,120.

HML/A-269 Marine promoted by father, brother

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION NEW RIVER, N.C.(Dec. 6, 2005) -- One Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Squadron-269 Marine’s Dec. 1 promotion ceremony was made even more special when he was surprised to find he would be pinned with his new chevrons by his father and brother, both active duty Marines.

Submitted by:
MCAS New River
Story by:
Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Brandon M. Gale

Story Identification #:

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION NEW RIVER, N.C.(Dec. 6, 2005) -- One Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Squadron-269 Marine’s Dec. 1 promotion ceremony was made even more special when he was surprised to find he would be pinned with his new chevrons by his father and brother, both active duty Marines.

Lance Cpl. Joseph B. Charboneau, HML/A-269 flightline mechanic, learned only moments before the ceremony that his father, Maj. Peter D. Charboneau, Sr., Marine Corps Combat Development Command force protection integration division branch head, and his brother Cpl. Peter D. Charboneau, Jr., Brig Co. corrections officer, Headquarters and Support Bn., Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, would be present to pin him. The goal was to continue a tradition that started when the brothers graduated together from the same platoon after recruit training.

“They actually lived in the same squad bay on (Marine Corps Recruit Depot) Parris Island that I worked in when I was a senior drill instructor,” said Peter, Sr., who was previously enlisted. “I was able to get down there and pin on their (eagle, globe and anchor). I knew then that I wanted it to become a tradition we could hopefully continue.”

According to Peter, Jr., the two brothers went everywhere together as they were growing up, but when Peter decided to join the Marine Corps, he worried that Joseph wouldn’t be by his side any longer.

“I told him it would be a good idea if we joined together,” he said. “I had to wait for him. He was younger than me, so I was in the delayed entry program for quite a while, but we shipped out together. I thought it would be the best thing for both of us and for my dad.”

Peter, Sr., said he felt it was important to make the six-hour drive from Quantico, Va., because he wanted to pass on the same advice to his son that he heard when he was promoted to corporal in 1984.

“Picking up corporal is the real first step in leadership,” he said. “When I was pinned, I was told that with the rank would come added responsibility. I was given a challenge to lead my Marines and I’ve never forgotten that, so that’s what I told my son today. I told him, ‘I challenge you to lead your Marines and never let them down.’”

Joseph said having his father and brother pin him was an awesome experience, especially since it was a surprise, and that he felt fortunate to have them so close.

“Before Dad went to Quantico, he was stationed at (Marine Corps Air Station) Cherry Point and my brother is just over at Lejeune,” he said. “It was always nice to be near them.”

As close as the family is, sharing events like promotion ceremonies can only make their bonds stronger, said Peter, Jr.

“When we’re sitting around together years from now, we’ll be able to look back on the things we did,” he said. “The Marine Corps is like a family anyway, and if we can keep doing things like this, it will bring us closer to each other.”

December 5, 2005

U.S. Marines Begin Offering Traumatic Injury Insurance Program

Some former and current U.S. Marine Corps personnel may be eligible for financial compensation through the newly established Traumatic Injury Insurance Program.


December 5, 2005

Some former and current U.S. Marine Corps personnel may be eligible for financial compensation through the newly established Traumatic Injury Insurance Program.

The Traumatic Injury Insurance Program (TSGLI) provides a retroactive provision for service members who suffered a qualifying loss between Oct. 7, 2001 and Nov. 30, 2005 as long as their injuries were incurred while deployed on orders in support of Operation Enduring or Iraqi Freedom or while the service member served in a geographic location that qualified the service member for a combat zone tax exclusion.

On Dec. 1, 2005, all service members who have Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI) will automatically become insured for traumatic injury protection up to $100,000 unless they specifically decline SGLI coverage.

Service members who were not enrolled in SGLI prior to Dec. 1, 2005 may still qualify for the TSGLI if they meet the traumatic injury protection criteria.

The TSGLI coverage provides money for a loss due to a specific traumatic event. The Office of Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance determines payment amounts, which are based on the severity of injury or combined loss of ability to perform specific daily living activities.

For additional information regarding eligibility criteria and claim submission procedures, visit www.manpower.usmc.mil\tsgli.

Source: USMC

Rumsfeld: Quitting Is No Option in Iraq

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2005 – Quitting in Iraq before the mission is finished would be an invitation to more terrorist violence against the United States, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today.


By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2005 – Quitting in Iraq before the mission is finished would be an invitation to more terrorist violence against the United States, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today.

"This is not just a hypothesis," Rumsfeld told an audience at Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at its campus here. "The U.S. withdrawal from Somalia emboldened Osama bin Laden in the 1990s. We know this. He said so."

Similarly, a retreat in Iraq would send an unmistakable message to America's enemies and friends alike, the secretary said. It would signal to Iraqis and moderate reformers throughout the region that they can't count on the United States, he said. And to the country's enemies, Rumsfeld said, it would say: "If America will not defend itself against terrorists in Iraq, it will not defend itself against terrorists anywhere."

What's needed in Iraq is "resolve, not retreat (and) courage, not concession," Rumsfeld told the group. "Rather than thinking in terms of an exit strategy, we should be focused on the strategy for success," he said.

President Bush's strategy for success in Iraq, released Nov. 30, focuses on the political, economic and security tracks that are all are moving steadily forward, Rumsfeld said.

Politically, Iraq will hold national elections Dec. 15 to seat a new national government, and Sunnis are increasingly taking part in the political process, he noted. Economically, Iraq's country's stock market "is alive and well" as the country makes other important advances, he said. On the security side, some 214,000 Iraqi security forces are now trained and equipped, working with coalition forces and steadily gaining experience.

While progress continues, the job is not yet done, the secretary told the group. Giving up in Iraq too soon, he said, will derail much of this progress and egg on violent terrorists who behead people, bomb children and attack funerals and wedding receptions, Rumsfeld said.

"This is the kind of brutality and mayhem the terrorists are working to bring to our shores," he said. "And if we do not succeed in our efforts to arm and train Iraqis to help defeat these terrorists in Iraq, this is the kind of mayhem that these terrorists, emboldened by a victory, will bring to our cities again. Let there be no doubt."

Defeating extremists' aspirations in Iraq is essential to protecting Americans lives, Rumsfeld said. "Imagine the world our children would face if we allowed (Ayman al-) Zawahiri, (Abu Musab al-) Zarqawi, bin Laden and others of their ilk to seize power and operate with impunity out of Iraq," he said.

They'd turn Iraq into what Afghanistan was before Sept. 11, 2001: a haven for terrorist recruitment and training and a launch pad for attacks against the United States and its interests, he said.

"Iraq would serve as the new base of a new Islamic caliphate to extend throughout the Middle East and which would threaten legitimate governments around the world," he said. "This is their plan. They have said so."

Americans would make "a terrible mistake" if they don't listen and learn from terrorists and, as a result, steel their resolve to do what's necessary to keep them from achieving their goals, Rumsfeld said.

"Quitting is not a strategy," he said.

Corps of Engineers Restructures Contracting Support in Iraq

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2005 – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has changed the way it administers contracts for rebuilding Iraq, officials said.


By Denise Calabria
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2005 – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has changed the way it administers contracts for rebuilding Iraq, officials said.

A "change of charter" ceremony at the corps' Gulf Region Division headquarters in Baghdad's International Zone Dec. 4 heralded the change. In essence, the change folds the responsibilities of the former Project and Contracting Office into those of the Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division.

Ambassador for Iraq Reconstruction Daniel Speckhard was the keynote speaker at the event in which Hugh M. Exton Jr., director of the Project and Contracting Office, relinquished authority of the PCO's mission to Army Brig. Gen. William H. McCoy Jr., Gulf Region Division commander.

The PCO intentionally stood up as a temporary organization in May 2004 to serve the people of the U.S. and Iraq by contracting for and delivering a total $18.4 billion in resources that Congress on behalf of the American taxpayers had allocated for rebuilding Iraq.

From the outset, planners anticipated that the GRD would have a longer-term presence in Iraq to support Multinational Force Iraq, officials said. Given GRD's substantial program, project and construction-management capabilities, there were potential organizational efficiencies to downsize and restructure PCO functions while GRD continued its presence in theater.

Exton thanked his team for doing a "great job in effecting the consolidation within budget, above 'spec' and ahead of schedule."

"I believe we have achieved mission success," he said.

The Gulf Region Division is the executive agency of the Iraq Reconstruction Program. Its headquarters and three districts provide engineering services to Multinational Force Iraq and the Iraqi government in support of military and civil construction.

"Today, two great organizations that have successfully performed the missions for which they were created now unify their efforts in service to the Iraqi people," McCoy said.

"PCO and GRD have had very similar missions in the past -- to rebuild Iraq," he noted. "Of a program of over 3,500 different projects, together we have started over 3,000 and completed over 2,000."

McCoy said those projects should improve essential services and capabilities in Iraq and should jumpstart the economy. "That is a historic mission," he said, "and these two organizations have made significant progress in the last year and a half."

The Gulf Region Division's north and south districts, located in Mosul and Talil, respectively, have quality control and assurance responsibilities for more than 1,000 projects each, while the Baghdad-based Gulf Region Central district oversees the reconstruction of over 900 projects.

Briefing readies Marines, families for mobilization

PLAINVILLE -- Despite the snowy conditions, U.S. Marines and their families gathered at the Plainville Marine and Navy Resource Center on Sunday morning for "Family Day," a special event held before the infantry reserve unit mobilizes for training and deployment. (1/25 Charlie)


Today, members of Charlie Company of the First Battalion 25th Marines, Fourth Marine Division will report to a base in Chicopee, Mass., where they will receive training for approximately one month.

After the training, the Marines will proceed to Twentynine Palms, Calif., where the Marines will receive further orders, briefing and training before deploying to Iraq, which is currently scheduled for early March 2006.

The soldiers will receive instruction and physical training for a hot, stressful environment, as well as in marksmanship, communication skills and other areas.

Sunday’s events, which included a breakfast and a number of speeches, provided families and friends with a chance to spend some time with the Marines and offered both the soldiers and their loved ones an opportunity to learn what changes will occur and what to expect once the soldiers mobilize.

"Hosting a briefing for the families is one of the steps to prepare for mobilization," said Staff Sgt. Patrick Cardichon. "It’s a way for us to inform families and loved ones of what is available to them, who they can contact and how to understand the Marine Corps life. Things change when a soldier leaves and they need to understand how to adapt to those changes."

One of the changes discussed was the need for emergency contact information. This function is not controlled by the Marine Corps, but rather is done through the Red Cross. If a soldier needs to reach his family or people at home have an emergency and need to alert a deployed Marine, the Red Cross initiates the contact and delivers the message, said Cardichon.

In addition, members of the Veterans Association presented information on what rights and benefits the soldiers have during and after their service in active duty.

"We need to reassure the families and friends that their loved ones are not going off without an intricate and extensive support system in place," said John Lankford, the Veterans Association outreach specialist for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. "Both the government and private organizations are here to help, the soldiers are not alone."

Pfc. Joshua Marris and his girlfriend, Rebecca Merriam,shared some time together Sunday listening to the speakers and hanging out. Marris said he is excited to take part in the mission, but both he and Merriam agreed that they anticipate a long year ahead.

"It’s overwhelming," Merriam said. "It’s going to be a hard, long and probably very annoying year. All I can do is focus on school and wait."

For a number of soldiers, it is their first time going to war, but for others this is just a part of a lifestyle and service they have committed their lives to.

"I have been enlisted since 1984," said Maj. Jeff Haines, who will be making his second trip to Iraq when the battalion leaves in March. "This is what I have trained my entire life for. This is why I am here."

Haines spent seven months in the Western Iraqi city of Haditha with the 325th Marines. During the first mission, the Marines were in charge of protecting the base established in the city, training Iraqi security and locating Iraqi insurgents.

In the upcoming mission, Haines anticipates having many of the same tasks and responsibilities. The difference this time around, Haines said, is that the training has improved dramatically and the soldiers will be well prepared and know what to expect before they even arrive in Iraq.

"The big difference is the training. The nation has done a good job learning from their mistakes." Haines said. "These Marines will be different. They will be better prepared than any of the Marines that have gone overseas so far."

©The Bristol Press 2005

Fallen Twentynine Palms Marines remembered by loved ones

Ten Twentynine Palms Marines killed in Iraq are being remembered here in the Valley and up in the Hi Desert. This as Governor Schwarzenegger orders flags at the Capitol to be flown at half-staff in their honor.

Monday, December 5, 2005


The Marines are gone but not forgotten. Here are the names of the ten men who were killed:

Staff Sgt. Daniel J. Clay of Pensacola, FL, Sgt. Andy A. Stevens of Tomah, WI, Cpl. Anthony T. McElveen of Little Falls, MN, Lance Cpl. John M Holmason of Surprise, AZ, Lance Cpl. David A. Huhn of Portland, MI, Lance Cpl. Adam W. Kaiser of Naperville, IL, Lance Cpl. Robert A. Martinez of Splendora, TX, Lance Cpl. Scott T. Modeen of Hennepin, MN, Lance Cpl. Andrew G. Patten of Byron, IL and Lance Cpl. Craig N. Watson of Union City, MI

It's the largest number of local Marines killed in one bombing in Iraq. We spoke with friends and family of the Marines.

The oldest was 29, the youngest just 19. Lance Corporal Adam Kaiser. His parents were expecting him home for the holidays.

"We even bought some Christmas stuff and start putting it out," said Adam's father, Wade Kaiser. We were going to leave it for him until he got home. I guess we won't be doing that now."

The story is the same across the country. Families, friends and loved ones in pain.

"I never really thought it'd happen to Robert, I never really did," said Michael Battise, a friend of one of the fallen Marines.

Recruiting new Marines is tough enough right now, with less than a dozen local volunteers a month. But the news of a roadside bombing killing ten local Marines makes it even worse.

"What do you tell them what we always tell them, a Marine's main duty is to his country, so whatever the country asks to do, we're going to do," said recruiter Ssgt. Enrique Alaniz.

And for each Marine killed in action there's someone who has to deliver the news. It's a troubling experience Master Sgt. Kevin Davis remembers all too well.

"I was very apprehensive about going out there, because I thought they would blame me because I was the recruiter, and I had a good relationship with the family, and I wanted to see him work on planes. I can still remember driving up to the home, and what I felt, and when I got to the door, and knocked on it and they came up and looked at me, the mother and father, and it was very awkward of course, but they hugged, and they told me they were happy he was a Marine, and they were happy he was doing something he loved."

Something parents who've lost Marines in the recent tragedy can relate to.

"John went over there knowing it was a possibility," said Mark Comfort, stepfather of Lance Cpl. John M Holmason. "It was his decision, he was doing what he thought was right."


Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Ten Twentynine Palms Marines

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the deaths of

Staff Sgt. Daniel J. Clay of Pensacola, FL, Sgt. Andy A. Stevens of Tomah, WI, Cpl. Anthony T. McElveen of Little Falls, MN, Lance Cpl. John M Holmason of Surprise, AZ, Lance Cpl. David A. Huhn of Portland, MI, Lance Cpl. Adam W. Kaiser of Naperville, IL, Lance Cpl. Robert A. Martinez of Splendora, TX, Lance Cpl. Scott T. Modeen of Hennepin, MN, Lance Cpl. Andrew G. Patten of Byron, IL and Lance Cpl. Craig N. Watson of Union City, MI:

"These ten heroic Marines fought and died for their country, and have our deepest respect and everlasting gratitude. During this difficult time, Maria and I send our deepest sympathies to the Clay, Stevens, McElveen, Holmason, Huhn, Kaiser, Martinez, Modeen, Patten and Watson families for the painful loss of their cherished loved ones. The death of these Marines reminds us of the dangers inherent in protecting this country, and their service will not be forgotten."

Clay, 27, Stevens, 29, McElveen, 20, Holmason, 20, Huhn, 24, Kaiser, 19, Martinez, 20, Modeen, 24, Patten, 19 and Watson, 21, died Dec. 1 as a result of injuries sustained from an improvised explosive device while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Fallujah, Iraq. All 10 Marines were assigned to 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, CA. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, their unit was attached to 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force.

In honor of Clay, Stevens, McElveen, Holmason, Huhn, Kaiser, Martinez, Modeen, Patten and Watson, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Marines trying to establish viable police force in Karmah

Police officers were killed by insurgents in previous effort

By Andrew Tilghman, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Monday, December 5, 2005

KARMAH, Iraq — Even the police are scared in this mostly Sunni city just a few miles east of Fallujah.

To continue reading:


Military families seek support

Since Thanksgiving, four Marines from the region have been killed in Iraq. Three of them died in a deadly explosion near Fallujah last Thursday. With the recent spike in deaths and the holidays approaching, it can be especially important for families of military members to find support, and they seek it in a variety of ways.


by Annie Baxter, Minnesota Public Radio
December 5, 2005


St. Paul, Minn. — It's not always easy to find help. That's what Sharon Miners realized when her son, Tim, was deployed to Iraq with the Marines in 2003.

"What we found is the Marine Corps has bases with the Marines and their families, and a lot of them are married, so the family readiness is given to their wives or the soldiers themselves on the bases," Miners says. "But moms and dads way back in the states, nowhere near where the soldier lives, really don't have any resource."

Miners posted a notice on an Internet Web sitem hoping to form a support group for Marine family members in Hennepin County.

The group never materialized, and she ended up finding a support group for families of deployed service people at North Heights Lutheran Church. Miners says it has been meaningful for her to to pray with the other military families. Even though her son is now back from his second tour in Iraq, she still attends the church support group.

And Miners hasn't removed her posting from the Internet.

"I remember the need to share information about my feelings about my son being in Iraq, and the need for support, and really not knowing where to find that support. So I thought that I would leave my name on the Internet, so that if some people contacted me, I could refer them on," Miners says.

Support can be somewhat scattered in other branches of the military, too. Technical Sgt. Jeffrey Williams of Minnesota's Air Force Reserve says his unit offers access to chaplains for one-on-one counseling.

But he says overall, his unit has limited resources since it doesn't run an active duty base, so it often refers family members to outside groups for counseling services.

"We have probably better access to more established programs outside of our unit, through the Red Cross or First Call for Help or Military One Source, that it's easier to outsource that," Williams says. "And it ensures that the person in need has a better range of options in care for whatever the situation is."

Sometimes military family members form groups on their own. That's how it worked for Katie Overland. Her husband, Maj. Gen. John Overland, was deployed to Afghanistan about a year ago with the Army National Guard, and she and other Guard families came together.

Overland says the support group members are spread around the state; their monthly meetings and occasional e-mails and phone calls bring them closer.

"Because we don't live on a base or near a base, it's nice to talk, to be connected with other people who know what you're going through -- someone you can talk to, as well as being connected with resources, {since} some people might have financial trouble, some might have the birth of a baby," Overland says.

Overland says it's hard knowing her husband won't be around to spend the holidays with her and their three young kids. And sometimes her sadness is deepened by news of military casualties, like the recent deaths of three Minnesota Marines.

"That's heartbreaking," Overland says. "It's very hard to hear that. You are thankful it's not your own soldier, but your heart breaks for those families that are facing that. You know how close it is, that your soldier could be that soldier."

Overland says when she feels especially worried or overwhelmed, the counsel of her support group members can be soothing. She says they're always reminding her just to take things one day at a time.

A makeshift hunt for IEDs in Iraq

NEW OBAEIDI, IRAQ - Lance Cpl. Michael Piacentini bends down, carefully removes a burlap sack and starts gently probing a mound of sand underneath with the blade of his six-inch steel knife.


By Jill Carroll, Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
Mon Dec 5, 3:00 AM ET

NEW OBAEIDI, IRAQ - Lance Cpl. Michael Piacentini bends down, carefully removes a burlap sack and starts gently probing a mound of sand underneath with the blade of his six-inch steel knife.

In a country where one of the biggest threats to marines are hidden homemade bombs, dirt never looked so suspicious. The second leading cause of death among US troops in Iraq are improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Last Thursday, 10 Marines on foot patrol were killed and 11 wounded by a roadside IED near Fallujah, Iraq, in one of the deadliest attacks on American troops in recent months, the Marine Corps announced on Friday. They were hit by an IED made from several large artillery shells strung together, said a statement.

As a result, every patrol in Iraq includes a watch for IEDs.

In western Iraq near the Syrian border, Corporal Piacentini continues to probe the mound of sand, then calls out to his unit waiting on the road a few feet away: "It's good."

No IED this time.

For Marines trying to secure this stretch of the Euphrates River that pours across Iraq's border with Syria, Piacentini's method for detecting the bombs is often the standard, yet dangerous, operating procedure.

A 110-pound black German Shepard named Bingo works with Piacentini, sniffing suspicious holes in the ground, mounds of garbage, or debris placed a little too strategically.

"Beats me poking at it with a knife," says Piacentini, an East Hampton, Conn., native whose only eye protection is a pair of aviator sunglasses that he wears even at night. While serving in Afghanistan last year, he lost some vision in his left eye after an IED went off under a truck he was riding in.

Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams - equipped with signal-jamming radar, robots, and spacesuit-like protective gear - specialize in detecting and detonating IEDs. But most days there aren't enough Bingo's or EOD teams to go around. So, Marines on patrol tend to gently poke anything suspicious, and snip the wires of the bombs they discover themselves.

"We're a mechanized assault platoon. We've got to keep moving so we do it ourselves," says Gunnery Sgt. Jeffery Daniels, who commands a platoon that conducts the most patrols and so ends up handling most of the IEDs in New Obaeidi. "If there's an EOD [team] in the area, we'll call them and sit on it. [But] there's not enough EOD [teams] to go around."

The Marines of the 3rd Battalion of the 6th Regiment have spent the last three weeks fighting insurgents in this area of western Iraq. The 500-pound bombs have stopped falling and the insurgent gunfire in the streets has quieted. But most marines say the slow stalking of IEDs is a far worse enemy.

With "the gunfire you know where the enemy is. Here ... you don't know where. You're just like, 'God, I hope I don't step on anything'. It's a real nerve-wracking job," says Sgt. Don Rueger of Detroit.

Insurgents continue to refine their bomb- making techniques. After marines started using metal detectors to find IEDs, which are often made up of old artillery shells, some of the insurgents developed wooden ignition devices with less metal. Pressure plates are one of the innovations.

When a vehicle or person steps on a box or long tube connected to the bomb, two metal plates - one on top, one on the bottom - meet and set off the bomb, which may be several feet away but is connected by wires.

"If it's a pressure plate, we cut the wires and take the battery off. We dig around looking for wires," says Sergeant Daniels. "Ninety percent of the time we just take care of it ourselves."

When wires or an artillery shell are discovered there is a scramble to find a pressure plate, and failing to find one, to get out of the range of shrapnel in case an insurgent is waiting nearby to detonate the bomb remotely. "We don't find too many remote-controlled IEDs. We usually find them when they explode," Daniels says wryly.

Most patrols include a combat engineer or assaultman who have some training in handling explosives. They walk ahead of the patrol, sweeping the street with a metal detector. "I'm not a good carpenter but I know what to do with explosives," says Cpl. Charles Ziegler, explaining why he's a combat engineer as he comes across a pile of dirt and rocks he doesn't like the look of.

The marines poke and pick up suspicious objects dozens of times during each hours-long patrol. Every day or two, a patrol turns up an IED and the discovery is a point of pride. The marines crow about their IED finds and compete for the most.

Looking for lollipops
The marines quickly gain an eye for potholes that get filled in from one day to the next, suspiciously broken pieces of asphalt, or the tiniest piece of exposed wire that hint an IED has been planted. They look for so called "lollipops" - a thin line (buried signal wires) leading to a hole in the road (where a bomb or pressure plate is planted). On a bend in the road leading to their base, Ziegler's patrol spots one.

"It's a perfect lollipop," says Cpl. Sean Thompson, Seminole, Fla., as he jumps out of a humvee and begins poking his knife into a hole. Ziegler, the engineer on the patrol, looks on while waving his metal detector. He finds nothing.

"I'll never look at potholes the same again," says the Toledo, Ohio, native.

December 4, 2005

Marines scour area around Fallujah for arms

U.S., Iraqi militaries preparing for Dec. 15 elections

By Andrew Tilghman, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Sunday, December 4, 2005

AL KARMAH, Iraq — About 250 Marines rolled out of Camp Fallujah shortly after dawn Friday and moved into a small, poverty-stricken neighborhood for a house-by-house search of an area believed to be an insurgent stronghold. (2/2 Fox)

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‘A brave young man’

Family mourns for son killed in Fallujah attack


Halloween costumes were predictable around the Kaiser house — there was always a Marine in the mix.

Since the wizened age of 3, Adam Kaiser gave one consistent response to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

By Catherine Edman
Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Sunday, December 04, 2005

A Marine, he’d say. Always.

So it surprised no one when the quiet but determined teenager enrolled in that military branch even before graduating from Naperville Central High School in 2004.

Once he set his mind to a task, his father, Wade Kaiser, said, the boy faced it with focused determination.

Adam Kaiser
His family shared their memories Saturday as they coped with news that he was one of the latest casualties in Iraq. Adam Kaiser, 19, was among 10 Marines killed Thursday when a homemade roadside bomb exploded while his unit was on foot patrol near Fallujah. It was the deadliest single attack on U.S. troops in months.

“He was a brave young man,” his mother, Christine Kaiser, said, choking back tears.

And he spent his life working toward his goal.

Throughout high school, the Naperville teenager ran and took up tae kwon do to prepare himself physically and mentally for the Marines, his father said. It wasn’t uncommon for Kaiser to run 5 or 6 miles a night in the months leading up to his departure for basic training at Camp Pendleton in California.

Kaiser wasn’t obsessed with all things military. He just believed in the nobility of serving his country, his father said.

“He was somebody that loved his country and somebody that knew what he wanted to do with his life at that age,” Wade Kaiser said.

Operation Desert Storm was in full force when Kaiser was a small boy, and the ongoing news coverage made a strong impression that shaped the rest of his life, Christine Kaiser said.

Nonetheless, his family, who now lives in Romeoville, had looked forward to his return from the perils of Iraq.

In April, he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment — nicknamed the “War Dogs” — of the 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, from Twentynine Palms, Calif.

His unit was sent to Iraq in July and attached to Regimental Combat Team 8, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, which is based at Camp Lejeune, N.C. That unit has suffered some of the highest casualties of the war.

“Words will never describe accurately the honor, courage and commitment of these fallen Marines,” Col. William B. Crowe, the 7th Marine Regiment commanding officer, said in a statement. “These men did not give their lives in vain, and we will soon not forget our fellow brothers.”

Kaiser’s awards include the National Defense Service Medal, the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon and the War on Terrorism Service Medal, according to his service records. His tour overseas was set to end Jan. 24.

When Kaiser first left for Iraq, his requests home were simple: junk food — like containers of Pringles potato chips and candy. He’d write every few days, his twin sister Amanda said, generally lining up more words on a page than he was ever likely to spout off in person in an actual conversation.

To say he was quiet was generally an understatement, Christine Kaiser said.

When the pair was young, Amanda Kaiser spoke for both of them, so their mother would separate the duo at day care to give Adam a chance to speak up for himself, their mother recalled with a smile.

“Even though he was quiet, he was very funny,” their older sister Sarah added.

He might not be the one telling the longest or most detailed joke, but Kaiser’s periodic one-liners usually had people in stitches, his father said.

Much of the Marine’s time in Iraq was spent on patrol, searching for the type of improvised explosive devices that eventually claimed his life and those of his comrades. But when he wasn’t on patrol, there was a lot of boredom, he told his family.

He’d asked them to send books on jujitsu to supplement his black belt in tae kwon do. Jujitsu is another self-defense art but similarly weaponless.

Just recently, Kaiser’s care package requests had changed, too, his mother said. The junk food interest was gone. Comfort food familiar to him was in — Ramen noodles, Chef Boyardee Ravioli and Starkist Tuna Lunch To-Go.

They were happy to oblige with their weekly overseas deliveries.

Whatever made his life a little easier or happier, his mother was willing to do, she said.

They just wanted to keep his spirits up until his January return, a time when he was looking forward to buying a computer and maybe a car, Wade Kaiser said, covering his mouth, starting to cry.

Now the family gathers, looking proudly at the photo of the young man at his graduation from Marine Corps boot camp, on the day he fulfilled his lifetime dreams.

“I couldn’t be more proud of him,” Wade Kaiser said.

Visitation is set for 2 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Beidelman-Kunsch Funeral Home, 24021 W. Royal Worlington Drive, Naperville. A funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday. For more information, call (630)922-9630.

• Daily Herald staff writer Adam Kovac and wire services contributed to this report.

NASCAR drivers see life on Parris Island

A day at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island proved more hazardous to NASCAR Busch Series driver Ashton Lewis Jr. than his high-speed day job.


NASCAR drivers see life on Parris Island
Published Fri, Dec 2, 2005

The Beaufort Gazette

A day at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island proved more hazardous to NASCAR Busch Series driver Ashton Lewis Jr. than his high-speed day job.
Lewis, who drives the No. 25 Marine Corps-sponsored Ford car, "stepped funny on a line" while touring Parris Island's confidence course Thursday and was taken to Beaufort Memorial Hospital with an ankle injury, said Louie Louchart, a staff engineer for the team.

"Driving 180 mph, not a problem, but walking 2 mph is difficult," said Regan Smith, who drives the No. 35 McDonald's Big Mac Ford, for which the Marine Corps is an associate sponsor.

The crew for Team Rensi Motorsports, which operates both cars, was on Parris Island to witness its sponsors at work. The team arrived Wednesday and will stay through today, watching recruits run drills and graduate.

"Just observing gives each and every one of us respect for what teamwork requires," said Chris Wright, crew chief for the No. 35 car.

Sponsoring a car that is seen in 35 races annually maximizes exposure for the Marine Corps, said Rob Winchester, a retired Marine who is the spokesman and administrative director for the team.

As a public affairs officer for the Marines in 2001, Winchester said he helped form the partnership with Team Rensi Motorsports. He said the Marine Corps was the first branch of the military to fully fund a car. All branches but the Air Force now are primary sponsors of a NASCAR vehicle, according to the NASCAR Web site.

The Marine Corps spends about $3.5 million a year on the NASCAR team, recruit depot spokesman Maj. Guillermo Canedo said.

Besides providing publicity, team members said some Marines and their relatives find pride in the car.

"It increases morale, and when you increase morale, you increase retention," Winchester said.

He said it was fun to be back on Parris Island, where he went through boot camp in the 1980s, adding that it was important for his team members to understand the Marine Corps a little more.

"It gives them appreciation for what Marines do and what they're doing in Iraq," he said. "They give us freedom" to race.

Contact Lori Yount at 986-5531 or [email protected] To comment:

Twentynine Palms troops remembered

The Marines killed in Fallujah, Iraq, on Thursday were connected by their service together at the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, though only one was originally from California

[submitters note: A little bit about each Marine hero that was killed]


Jacob Ogles, Staff Writer

The Marines killed in Fallujah, Iraq, on Thursday were connected by their service together at the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, though only one was originally from California.

Their families, scattered across the country, mourn the losses of the men killed by a roadside bomb. The youngest joined the Marine Corps just 14 months ago. The oldest had been a Marine for more than a decade. Two were married and none had children.

Daniel J. Clay

Clay, 27, was a platoon sergeant who had been a Marine since 1996 and with the battalion since 2003. He and his wife, Lisa, lived in Twentynine Palms. He is also survived by parents Clarence and Sara in Pensacola, Fla., where their son grew up.

During his military career, Clay earned a number of awards, including the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement medals, two Meritorious Unit Commendations and the War on Terrorism Expeditionary and Service medals.

John M. Holmason

Holmason, 20, of Surprise, Ariz., was on a second deployment to Iraq, the first with the battalion. The rifleman previously earned the National Defense and War on Terrorism service medals.

He is survived by his father, Timothy, in Oregon, his mother, Karleen Comfort, in Farmington Hills, Mich., his grandfather, Richard of Portland, Ore., and five younger siblings.

David A. Huhn>/b>

Huhn, 24, joined the Marines in October 2004 and was assigned to the battalion in March. The rifleman had earned the National Defense and War on Terrorism service medals.

He is survived by his mother, Diane, of Portland, Mich.

Adam W. Kaiser

Kaiser, 19, was the youngest of the soldiers killed Thursday in Fallujah. Born in Virginia, he lived in Naperville, Ill.

He enlisted in October 2004 and was assigned to the battalion in April. He earned the National Defense and War on Terrorism service medals. He is survived by parents Wade and Christine Kaiser of Romeoville, Ill.

Robert A. Martinez

Martinez, 20, was on his second deployment to Iraq. The rifleman joined the Corps in 2003 in Splendora, Texas, and joined the battalion in November the same year. During his service, he earned the National Defense Service Medal and the War on Terrorism Expeditionary and Service medals.

He is survived my his mother, Kelly Hunt.

Anthony T. McElveen

McElveen, 20, enlisted in 2003 and was assigned to the battalion in November the same year. The rifleman earned the National Defense Service Medal and the War on Terrorism Expeditionary and Service medals.

McElveen was born in Ventura. The family later moved to Minnesota.

He is survived by his wife, Carrie, and by his parents, Thomas and Debra McElveen of Little Falls, Minn.

Scott T. Modeen

Modeen, 24, of Hennepin, Minn., joined the Marines in 2003 and the battalion in 2004. He was serving as team leader when he was killed. He had earned the National Defense Medal and the War on Terrorism Expeditionary and Service medals.

Modeen is survived by his father, John, of Inver Grove Heigh, Minn., and his mother, Kimberly of Blaine, Minn.

Andrew G. Patten

Patten, 19, enlisted in 2004 and joined the battalion in March.

The rifleman was on his first deployment to the Iraq War. During his service he earned the National Defense and War on Terrorism service medals.

He is survived by his parents, Alan Patten and Gayle Naschansky, both of Byron, Ill.

Andy A. Stevens

Stevens, 29, was the oldest of the Marines killed in Fallujah on Thursday. He joined the Marines in 1995 in Wisconsin and served in the battalion since 2002. He was a scout sniper.

He earned the Meritorious Unit and Navy Unit commendations, the Korean Defense Service Medal, two National Defense Service Medals and the War on Terrorism Expeditionary and Service medals. He is survived by his father, Allen of Tomah, Wis., and mother, Kaye Olson of Mayland Heights, Mo.

Craig N. Watson

Watson, 21, joined the corps in 2003 and the battalion in December that year. The rifleman had been awarded the National Defense Service Medal and the War on Terrorism Expeditionary and Service medals. He is survived by his mother, Shirley, of Union City, Mich., and his father, Jay.

National Security Adviser Outlines Progress in Iraq

WASHINGTON, Dec. 4, 2005 – The U.S. is already on the road to complete victory in Iraq, the president's national security adviser told Sunday talk show hosts today.


By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 4, 2005 – The U.S. is already on the road to complete victory in Iraq, the president's national security adviser told Sunday talk show hosts today.

"We do have a strategy and we think we're making progress" on the president's National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, Stephen Hadley said on "Fox News Sunday." He added that "this is a difficult thing that's being done."

Hadley said the subtitle of the strategy, unveiled Nov. 30, defined what the Bush administration considers a complete victory: "Helping the Iraqi People Defeat the Terrorists and Build an Inclusive Democratic State."

Hadley said Saddam Hussein loyalists, terrorists and rejectionists still try to derail the political process in the run-up to the elections on Dec. 15, "because they know the political process will be the end for them."

He added that with each election, more and more Iraqis have voted. "That's progress," he said. "That is the strategy for victory -- that and the training of the Iraqi security forces."

Hadley said progress got a boost from an unexpected source: wanted Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Zarqawi claimed his terrorist network was responsible for the Nov. 10 hotel bombings in Amman, Jordan, that killed 63 people and wounded hundreds. Those attacks raised the ire of the Muslim world and have changed the thinking of some Iraqis, Hadley said.

"Zarqawi's attack in Jordan has been a real catalyst in making clear the true methods of the terrorists and it has resulted in ... an increasing rejection of Zarqawi and the terrorists by Iraqis, he said on CNN's "Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer." "That's a very good thing. That's progress."

Everyone involved, including the Iraqis, would like to move to the next level, Hadley said on ABC's "This Week." He was very clear, however, that any decision by the president to withdraw troops be conditions-based. One condition is an Iraqi security force capable of securing its own country, he said.

"We think that if trends continue and we continue to make the progress, and the Iraqis continue to make ... progress, we will be in a position sometime next year for the commanders on the ground to make their assessments," Hadley said. "And it may be at that point that they will come to the president and say, 'We want to make some adjustments.'"

At the end of the day, Hadley said the U.S. can help the Iraqis defeat the terrorists and establish an inclusive democratic state. Ultimately, however, they've got to take the reigns, he said.

Emergency Landings Injure Six in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, Dec. 4, 2005 – Two U.S. CH-47 Chinook helicopters involved in combat operations made emergency landings today in separate locations in southern Afghanistan, injuring five U.S. soldiers and one Afghan National Army soldier.


American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 4, 2005 – Two U.S. CH-47 Chinook helicopters involved in combat operations made emergency landings today in separate locations in southern Afghanistan, injuring five U.S. soldiers and one Afghan National Army soldier.

In the first incident, an emergency landing at a forward operating base south of Tarin Kowt occurred with one Afghan National Army soldier injured. He was evacuated to a nearby U.S. military treatment facility where he is in stable condition.

The second incident, which injured five U.S. soldiers, occurred north of Kandahar and resulted in severe damage to the aircraft. The injured were evacuated to a nearby U.S. medical facility for treatment. All are reported in stable condition.

Afghan and U.S. forces are conducting recovery operations.

(From a Combined Forces Command Afghanistan news release.)

Byron Marine ‘gave everything he had’

The city plans to lower its flags to half-staff this month in honor of Andrew Patten.

By DUSTIN J. SEIBERT, Rockford Register Star


BYRON — Eddie Engelert recalled one of the last conversations he had with his good friend Andrew Patten before the Marine shipped off to Iraq in July.

“His words were that he was going over there to accomplish the mission, and he wasn’t going to come home until its done,” he said. “I didn’t want him to go, but he went to do his duty, and freedom isn’t free.”

The 19-year-old lance corporal from Byron was among 10 members of the 2nd Marine Division killed Thursday by a roadside bomb in Fallujah. It was the worst attack on U.S. troops in the war since 14 Marines were killed in a similar incident in August.

The attack, which also killed Lance Cpl. Adam W. Kaiser, 19, of Naperville, brought the number of confirmed U.S. deaths in Iraq to 2,127.

Engelert, 20, of Chana met Patten in sixth grade through Maywood Evangelical Free Church in Byron. They hit it off because they were “high-energy kids” who would go fishing, rock-climbing and ride all-terrain vehicles together.

The Northern Illinois University student found out the bad news Friday from his parents.

“I was kind of in shock. I couldn’t believe it for the first hour or so,” he said. “It still doesn’t make sense to me, but we have to trust God and that’s the only thing we can do.”

Jason Engelert, 17, said he became close to Patten through his big brother.

“He knew how to entertain you, and he was fun to be around and always had something to say,” he said.

Larry Seagren, administrative pastor at Maywood Evangelical, served as Patten’s youth pastor when he was in elementary school. He said the church will display his picture and have a moment of silence in his honor during today’s service.

“It’s kind of shock and disbelief at the same time. We were very close throughout the years,” he said.

“He was a dynamic kid who gave everything he had to everything he did. He had a very strong faith in God, and that’s what gave him strength.”

Mayor R. Scot Nason proclaimed that all flags in the city will be flown at half-staff for the remainder of the month.

“Our country is more for Lance Cpl. Patten’s service, and the community of Byron is lessened by his loss,” Nason said in a press release. “We mourn with his family, and will remain eternally grateful for his service.”

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, who works closely with veterans and military personnel in Illinois, said his staff “will help the family with whatever they need. It’s obviously a traumatic time. Sometimes there are questions and issues that maybe a family might have that they need to tend to, and we try to help in any way possible.”

Patten will be buried at Arlington (Va.) National Cemetery; services, which will be at Maywood, have not been scheduled.

Register Star Springfield Bureau chief Aaron Chambers contributed to this story.

Contact: [email protected]; 815-987-1354

U.S. Forces Try New Approach: Raid and Dig In

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 4 - Marines staked their claim to the abandoned youth center in Husayba last month with a Hellfire missile and two tank rounds that destroyed a corner of the building and part of the roof. (3/6)


Published: December 5, 2005
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 4 - Marines staked their claim to the abandoned youth center in Husayba last month with a Hellfire missile and two tank rounds that destroyed a corner of the building and part of the roof.

Weeks earlier, residents had forsaken the center to insurgents who were using it as an armory and a staging point for attacks. The fighters fled before the American assault but left evidence that their flight had been in haste, including a half-eaten bowl of fresh figs in a makeshift sniper's roost above the center's theater.

This was the last building in a five-day sweep of the town, a point at which the Americans, in the past, would usually have loaded up their armored vehicles, driven back to their desert bases and prepared for a new raid elsewhere, leaving the door open for a return of the rebels.

But this time the marines immediately began digging in, and Iraqi troops joined them.

Immediately after the sweeps last month, American and Iraqi officials began meeting with community leaders to conjure up local political representation where, in many places, insurgents had killed the elected leadership or driven it into hiding. They began to resurrect power and electrical systems, or in some cases build them. In time, they say, they will recruit and train local police forces for each community.

General Johnson said that the only existing police force in the province was in Falluja, with 1,200 officers, and that there were "no governments to speak of," except in Ramadi, the provincial capital, and Falluja.

Beyond providing more manpower, the Iraqi security forces give greater legitimacy to the strategy, military officials insist. "The Americans can't occupy this country," said Capt. Conlon Carabine, a company commander in the Third Battalion, Sixth Marines, which was involved in the Husayba and Karabila sweeps. "The Iraqi government is going to have to beat this insurgency."

Indeed, the Americans' long-range military strategy in the newly swept towns of western Anbar, as in the rest of the country, is to turn over full security control to the Iraqis. But commanders in Anbar acknowledge that the Iraqi Army still has a long way to go - in training, experience and numbers - before it is prepared to assume control from the Americans.

In an interview at his headquarters at Camp Falluja, General Johnson offered a highly cautious assessment of the Iraqi Army's battle-readiness in Anbar. Pointing to the sixfold increase in the number of Iraqi troops at his disposal this year, he said, "Even though it's a large increase in number, it's going to take time to develop."

Though some units are beginning to be able to "take the lead" on operations, he said, they still require coalition support.

"They're going pretty good out here," he added. "I just believe it's a matter of time."

Last month's operation near the Syrian border was a crucial test for the fledgling Iraqi Army in Anbar. It was the first large-scale deployment of multiple Iraqi Army battalions in combat with American forces there.

To this reporter embedded with the assault force, the Iraqis often seemed disorganized, complacent and undisciplined. On the north side of the river, where the Iraqis had a chance to take the lead because they outnumbered the Americans, house-to-house clearing operations were sloppy. The troops moved unsystematically from house to house, sometimes giving buildings nothing more than a glance or, worse, bypassing them altogether.

Some soldiers demonstrated unorthodox uses for their weapons, including two soldiers who used their Kalashnikov assault rifles to swat a ball around as if they were playing field hockey, according to American soldiers who witnessed the scene, and several who used their rifles to pry metal security doors off their hinges.

Military commanders offered modest public praise of the Iraqi performance, emphasizing, for instance, that the Iraqis demonstrated a willingness to stand their ground and fight, rather than flee, as some units had in the past. Privately, several offered much harsher assessments.

But American officials have given up any pretense of trying to create a world-class military and say their goal is to leave behind one that can competently patrol borders and police streets.

Until then, Anbar will primarily be the Americans' fight - and a bloody one at that.

Troops in Anbar have borne the brunt of combat casualties in recent months. Captain Pool, the Second Marine Division spokesman, said at least 205 American servicemen and servicewomen have died there since the division arrived on March 17. That includes the 10 marines killed last Thursday in a bomb explosion outside of Falluja.

Marine commanders describe the struggle for Anbar in primal terms. "This is not a hearts and minds battle," Colonel Davis said. "This is a fight for survival."

"There are a lot of knuckleheads here that need to die," he went on. "You're just crunching heads."

Moments after his marines finished clearing the last house in their sector of Karabila last month, Captain Carabine stood on a rooftop overlooking the town, taking the full measure of his new mandate. After seven days of arduous house raids, during which one of his marines was killed and several others wounded, he would immediately begin building a garrison in Karabila and somehow, with the support of his Iraqi Army troops, set about trying to shore up the public services in the poor farming village and establish a sense of governmental authority.

"Allowing the people not to be controlled by insurgents and allowing them to live freely and not in the grip of fear is what will win the insurgency," he said. "This is when the real work begins."

Technicians converted the theater's stage into a command center, engineers erected a perimeter of cement barriers to guard against rocket attacks and suicide bombers, and a community relations team took over a warren of rooms near the entrance of the center to receive residents' claims for damages.

Meanwhile, American and Iraqi infantrymen turned some of the remaining space into barracks and began to conduct street patrols in a town that had not had a regular security force, American or Iraqi, in months.

For months, the military has been conducting raids in Anbar Province, the western desert region that has become a wellspring for the insurgency. But the taking of the youth center was one of the first steps in a new approach to taming the area: first sweep a town, then immediately garrison it and begin reconstruction - or what President Bush has called "clear, hold and build." Just as important, Iraqi forces are an integral component of the strategy.

The challenges are daunting: the quality of the Iraqi troops is still low, cooperation from local residents is scarce, and the insurgency, though damaged by the sweeps, remains strong. But by providing a continual security presence and improvements in the quality of life, the American command hopes to win support for the elected leadership and deny the insurgents the popular support they seek.

American military officials in Anbar say this has always been their plan - it has already been applied elsewhere in the country - but they never had enough troops to carry it out. Since spring, the number of Iraqi troops operating in Anbar Province has surged to the current level of about 16,000 from about 2,500 in March, said Maj. Gen. Stephen T. Johnson, commander of Multinational Force West and Second Marine Expeditionary Force, which oversees security in Anbar. The Iraqis join about 32,000 coalition troops.

The siege of Husayba, a farming and trading town, was part of a Marine-led operation that began Nov. 5, lasted more than two weeks and cleared villages and towns on both sides of the Euphrates River near the Syrian border. Since spring, troops in Anbar have conducted at least nine major assaults and several smaller ones to disrupt insurgent networks of safe houses and smuggling routes for fighters and suicide bombers going to Iraq's interior from Syria.

According to Capt. Jeffrey S. Pool, spokesman for the Second Marine Division, the plan to ensure a seamless transition from clearing to holding in Anbar was refined in earlier operations, including sweeps in October in Sadaa, Haqlaniya, Haditha and Barwana, where American and Iraqi forces now have garrisons. But the operation last month was the most ambitious application of the strategy.

Even before it ended, construction of at least seven garrisons was under way in Husayba, Karabila and Ubaydi on the south side of the Euphrates and in the Ramana region on the north. Each will be staffed by at least two platoons of American and Iraqi soldiers, officials said.

"We bought land now," said Col. Stephen W. Davis, the commander of Marine Regimental Combat Team 2. "We're not leaving the towns. We're invested in them."

Friends recall Surprise Marine killed in Fallujah

Oregon native worked at restaurant, aspired to special operations force


Michael Ferraresi
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 4, 2005 12:00 AM

Family and friends Saturday mourned Marine Lance Cpl. John M. Holmason, a former Surprise resident killed last week in Iraq.

The 20-year-old was among 10 Marines killed Thursday after a roadside bomb tore through a patrol convoy in Fallujah.

The attack was one of the worst on American troops in months.

Holmason worked at an Applebee's restaurant in Surprise, near Bell Road and Grand Avenue, after moving to Arizona from a small town in Oregon.

"John was an awesome human being, and this is a tragic loss," said Larry O'Daniel, a manager for the Applebee's restaurant.

"All of us who know him miss him dearly."

Holmason worked as a host and server in Surprise until he enlisted in 2004.

The Department of Defense released the names of Holmason and other bombing casualties Saturday, as attacks continued in Iraq.

Holmason's unit, based in Twentynine Palms, Calif., was attached to the 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Expeditionary Force.

Holmason grew up in Scappoose, Ore., north of Portland, and graduated from high school in 2002.

Family members in Oregon said that he was proud to be a Marine and that he had aspirations of training for a special operations post.

Holmason and the nine other Marines died when insurgents set off an explosive device made from several large artillery shells as they were on a combat mission.

Eleven other Marines were wounded in the attack, although seven had returned to duty Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Marines, families gather before first leg of journey

Londonderry — Standing in front of the men of Bravo Company, First Battalion, 25th Marines, and hundreds of their family members, Lt. Col. Chris Landrau spoke very plainly about what the next year would be like. “This is going to the most challenging year for your loved ones,” he told the crowd. (1/25)


Union Leader Correspondent
11 hours, 9 minutes ago

Londonderry — Standing in front of the men of Bravo Company, First Battalion, 25th Marines, and hundreds of their family members, Lt. Col. Chris Landrau spoke very plainly about what the next year would be like. “This is going to the most challenging year for your loved ones,” he told the crowd.

The company, based in Londonderry at the Armed Forces Reserve Center, was activated for duty on Wednesday and left for the first leg of their overseas deployment yesterday. After short stops for training in New Jersey and California, the company will head to Iraq — the Fallujah area — in March.

But Landrau also had reassuring words. The men will be trained fully, equipped fully and supported fully from back home, and so will the families. Families should not fret that their loved one will go into battle without proper equipment and training, Landrau told the crowd, and the deployment will not be extended.

“It is for seven months, there is no threat of that going to one year,” he said.

Landrau was speaking at Family Day at the center, during a presentation designed to ensure families of Marines are aware of everything they need to know. Other officers from the battalion spoke, including the chaplain who briefly counseled on how to handle the emotions of seeing a family member deployed.

Also on hand were representatives from the Key Volunteer Network, a program consisting of volunteers who provide communications to family members, and the state’s committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.

Ernest F. Loomis, ESGR state chairman, the purpose of the day was to help families be behind their Marine during the tough months ahead and to reassure them the resources are there to support both the Marines and their loved ones.

“They’ll be the ones back home taking care of the money issues and the employment issues,” he said. “They’ll be the ones holding down the home front.”

To help bolster spirits, a representative of Gov. John Lynch presented the company with a New Hampshire state flag, and Rep. Jeb Bradley delivered a message of support.

“I’m here to salute your courage, your valor,” he said. “We pray for your success and your safe return.”

Included in the crowd were Lance Cpl. Peter Boisvert, 20, of Nashua, and his mother Kristine Boisvert. Kristine said this is the first time she’s had a family member activated or deployed, and admits she is nervous about her son going to Iraq.

“I’m a nervous type of person,” she said. “What really made me feel better is hearing that they will be fully trained before they go. That’s a big plus.”

Lance Cpl. Boisvert said the longest he has ever been away from home is the 19 weeks of boot camp and infantry school, but knowing he’ll be surrounded by fellow Marines makes it easier.

“The fact that we’ll have these Marines here makes me the most confident Marine I can be,” he said.

Dead Marines Had Expected Iraq Deployment

BYRON, Ill., Dec. 3 - Like Lance Cpl. Andrew G. Patten, most of the 10 marines who died on Thursday in the worst attack on American troops in months were young, young enough to have joined the military already knowing they might well be sent to Iraq.


Published: December 4, 2005

BYRON, Ill., Dec. 3 - Like Lance Cpl. Andrew G. Patten, most of the 10 marines who died on Thursday in the worst attack on American troops in months were young, young enough to have joined the military already knowing they might well be sent to Iraq.

Corporal Patten, whose family set out in falling snow here on Saturday to meet with a funeral director, was 19. When he enlisted, after graduating from Byron High School last year, the war was already a year old. He had registered for classes at a nearby college, said his father, Alan, but then he changed his mind and signed up.

"He was very excited to go to Iraq and see some action," said his mother, Gayle Naschansky. "Originally, I didn't want him to go in." She quickly added: "But it's your kid, and when he's made up his mind, you have to support him."

In Byron, a town of about 3,000 people 100 miles west of Chicago, and in nine other towns around the country, Marine families on Saturday mourned their lost sons, many of whom represented a new generation of troops - those who enlisted after the nation went to war in Iraq.

Two of the men killed when an improvised bomb went off in Falluja were 19 years old; three were 20; one was 21. Eight had joined the Marines sometime after March 2003, the month the war began, Department of Defense records show.

Lance Cpl. John M. Holmason, 20, was working at an Applebee's in Surprise, Ariz., when he decided to enlist. The war was well under way; the month of his enlistment, September 2004, also marked the 1000th American death in Iraq.

Though some of his relatives had objected, fearing for his safety, Corporal Holmason seemed certain of his choice, his family said.

"When he joined the Marines, he knew that because of the war, there was a good possibility that he would go to Iraq," said Julie Holmason, his grandmother. "I was one of the ones to try and convince him not to do infantry. I talked to him very long and hard about that. But it didn't change his mind. 'Grandma,' he says, 'I know that's a possibility, but that's what I want to do.' "

All 10 of those killed while on foot patrol on Thursday were members of the First Marine Division, based at Twentynine Palms, Calif. Eleven other marines were also injured in the attack. The deaths and injuries - the worst involving American troops in four months - prompted relatives of marines to flock to Web sites to converse with other marine families in search of news.

In Splendora, Tex., some 35 miles from Houston, Lance Cpl. Robert A. Martinez had known since the sixth grade that he wanted to join the military, said his mother, Kelly Hunt. He signed up for a "delayed entry" program while he was still in high school in 2002, then left for boot camp in June 2003, two days after finishing Cleveland High School.

Corporal Martinez was 20 and on his second deployment to Iraq when he died.

"He wanted to protect his family," Mrs. Hunt said. "He said he was doing it for us."

Corporal Martinez believed strongly in the mission in Iraq, his family members said, as they do. Still, Mrs. Hunt recalled on Saturday, she had tried to talk her son out of enlisting many times. Her reason was simple: "I knew there was a war going on and didn't want him to go."

Among the oldest marines killed in the explosion on Thursday was Staff Sgt. Daniel J. Clay, of Pensacola, Fla. He was 27 and had served for nearly a decade. Like those who signed up after the war began, Sergeant Clay had told his family that he believed fully in the job he was doing in Iraq.

"He was a true patriot who believed in his mission and President Bush," his mother, Sarah Jo, said on Saturday.

Around the country, relatives of those killed on Thursday said they had expected the men, who were deployed in July, to come home in January. Some had made plans for reunion parties. Others said they had scheduled trips to California.

In Naperville, Ill., Lance Cpl. Adam W. Kaiser's family was going to leave their Christmas decorations up until he returned from duty.

As it is now, said his father, Wade, Christmas is hard to imagine at all.

"He was a hard one to read sometimes," Mr. Kaiser said, "but I always knew that when it came time for him to graduate from high school, even with the war on terror, he was going to join. That's what he wanted to do."

Corporal Kaiser joined the Marines last year and died on Thursday at 19.

Reporting for this article was contributed by Damien Cave from New York; Bill Dawson from Splendora, Tex.; Jeremy W. Peters from Detroit; Duwayne Escobedo from Pensacola, Fla.; and John M. Broder from Los Angeles.

Many good men: Listening to NH's Marines

The Londonderry-based Bravo Company, a Marine reserve unit, has just been activated for duty in Iraq. These men are nothing if not ready — and willing — to go.


12 hours, 9 minutes ago

IF YOU BELIEVE the anti-war crowd, no American service member goes to Iraq willingly because, of course, no one wants to "die for oil." The deranged President sends them all kicking and screaming, but they have no choice because their contracts have made them slaves of the state, nothing more than cannon fodder.

If you believe the anti-war crowd, you might want to talk to some of the U.S. Marines who have volunteered for duty in Iraq, often multiple times.

The Londonderry-based Bravo Company, a Marine reserve unit, has just been activated for duty in Iraq. These men are nothing if not ready — and willing — to go.

"I wanted to be activated," Lance Cpl. Nick Koutalakis, 22, of Nashua, said last week.

Major Dave Mayhan of Bedford is an active duty Marine serving with Bravo Company. He told a New Hampshire Union Leader reporter last week that people sometimes come to him and say they're sorry he is being deployed to Iraq.

"People shouldn't feel sorry for us," said the father of three. "We have an opportunity to make a difference and do what we signed up for."

More than 100 of the 180 members of Bravo Company signed up for a second deployment.

These Marines, like their counterparts in the other branches of our armed forces, know they are fighting to defeat America's enemies, who also are Iraq's enemies. That's the job they volunteered to do, and they want to do it.

Their courage and selflessness are amazing to behold. Americans should remember that before belittling these patriots by dismissing their work as colonialism, profiteering or a grand waste. They are achieving great things in Iraq, and we should never lose sight of that because their accomplishments carry a high price.

What's your opinion? E-mail us at [email protected]

L.I. Marines Ready To Do Their Duty

(CBS) GARDEN CITY Three hundred Marines from our area will be deployed to Iraq early next year. (2/25)


Reid Lamberty

(CBS) GARDEN CITY Three hundred Marines from our area will be deployed to Iraq early next year.

Saturday was "Family Day" at the Garden City Marine training facility. Mothers and fathers were briefed on the benefits and military support agencies available to them. They were also assured that the lines of communication will always be open, no matter where their Marine goes.

"If they have questions at any time, they can call us 24/7 and we can get a message to their Marines and vice-versa," Maj. Michael Froeder said.

Members of the 2nd Battalion, 25th Regiment will go to Fort Evans, Mass., for preliminary training. They will then come home for the holidays before more training at 29 Palms, Calif. They will then be deployed to Kuwait and, ultimately, end up in Iraq.

"Some of the Marines you see, it'll be their first deployment," Lt. Col. Walter Powers said. "There's also a mix of Marines who were already deployed with this battalion."

The 2nd Battalion is up for a one-year tour, but it could be stretched to two years if deemed necessary.

"The spirits are pretty high," he said. "It's hard for the Marines, families and friends especially around the holidays. There's a high level of motivation across the board."

(© MMV, CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Tomah Marine dies in Iraq

Sgt. Andy A. Stevens, 29, of Tomah, was killed Thursday while conducting combat operations in the Al Anbar province, the Department of Defense said in a statement Saturday. The attack, which injured 11 others, was the deadliest against American troops in four months.


Associated Press

TOMAH, Wis. - A local sergeant was one of 10 Marines killed by an improvised explosive device in Iraq, authorities said Saturday.

Sgt. Andy A. Stevens, 29, of Tomah, was killed Thursday while conducting combat operations in the Al Anbar province, the Department of Defense said in a statement Saturday. The attack, which injured 11 others, was the deadliest against American troops in four months.

"The family of Andy A. Stevens is extremely proud of him and his service in the Marine Corps and to this nation," according to a statement released by the Marines Saturday night.

Stevens' family did not want to make any public comments, the statement said.

Stevens was a 1995 graduate of Tomah High School. Jeff McGinnis, a coach at the school, said Stevens was a pole vaulter, a choice likely driven by his desire for excitement.

"Andy was kind of his own person," McGinnis said, who enjoyed the thrill of pole vaulting.

Stevens was also in football, basketball and concert choir in high school, according to the 1995 Tomah school yearbook.

McGinnis said Stevens once shaved a bald strip on his head, "a reverse Mohawk, just to be different ... he had his own way of doing things."

Mary Justinger, a family friend and former middle school teacher of Stevens', said he was "the kind of kid who always gave you 100 percent, no matter what he did."

The department said all 10 Marines were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Twentynine Palms, Calif.

"Words will never describe accurately the honor, courage and commitment of these fallen Marines and Sailors," said 7th Marine Regiment Col. William Crowe in a statement. "These men did not give their lives in vain, and we will not soon forget our fellow brothers."

Stevens, who joined the Marines in June 1995 and was serving as a scout sniper, deployed to Iraq with his unit in July, the Marine Corps said.

Stevens' father, Allen, lives in Tomah and his mother, Kaye Olson, lives in Maryland Heights, Mo., the corps said.

"The family is in mourning and they wish not to be disturbed right now," said 1st Sgt. Christopher Campbell of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Center in Madison.

The U.S. military said Friday that the group was on a foot patrol near Fallujah. Of the 11 Marines who were injured, seven later returned to duty, it said.

The military said the rest of the team was conducting "counterinsurgency operations throughout Fallujah and the surrounding area" to improve security for the Dec. 15 elections.

The deaths, along with four others announced Friday, brought to at least 2,127 the number of U.S. service members who have died since the beginning of the war in 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

Previously, the single deadliest attack against U.S. troops in Iraq was on Aug. 3, when 14 Marines were killed by a bomb that destroyed their vehicle near Haditha, 140 miles northwest of Baghdad.

Stevens' awards include the Combat Action Ribbon, two awards of the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, the Meritorious Unit Commendation, the Navy Unit Commendation, the Korean Defense Service Medal, two awards of the National Defense Service Medal, five Sea Service Deployment Ribbons, the War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Ten Marines based locally killed in Iraq

TWENTYNINE PALMS - Outside Realistic Tattoo on Adobe Road, the shop's glass door bears the Marines seal.

Inside, photos of the shop's work show tattoos that read "USMC" and "Home of the Free Because of the Brave."

Ten of this town's brave died Thursday in Iraq, killed by a familiar weapon in this war, a roadside explosive.


Staff Sgt. Daniel J. Clay, 27, of Pensacola, Fla. (platoon sergeant)
Sgt. Andy A. Stevens, 29, of Tomah, Wis.
Lance Cpl. John M. Holmason, 20, of Surprise, Ariz.
Lance Cpl. David A. Huhn, 24, of Portland, Mich.
Lance Cpl. Adam W. Kaiser, 19, of Naperville, Ill.
Lance Cpl. Robert A. Martinez, 20, of Splendora, Texas
Lance Cpl. Scott T. Modeen, 24, of Hennepin, Minn.
Lance Cpl. Andrew G. Patten, 19, Byron, Ill.
Lance Cpl. Craig N. Watson, 21, of Union City, Mich.
Cpl. Anthony T. McElveen, 20, of Little Falls, Minn.

Darrell Smith
The Desert Sun
December 4, 2005

The oldest was 29, the youngest, 19. The Marines were walking along a road on combat operations outside Fallujah when the device detonated.

Their unit, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, deployed in July and was in the fifth month of its tour in Iraq. Most Marine tours are seven-month stints.

The Twentynine Palms death toll now stands at 75 Marines and sailors.

And the tattoo shop's owner, "Catfish" Carl, said he feels for every one, the 10 who died Thursday, the 65 who preceded them.

"They're our bread and butter doing a job that no one wants to do, and that they're from this base, it's a little bit closer," Carl said.

Another 11 Marines were wounded in the deadliest day for Twentynine Palms Marines since the war began.

Base officials, citing medical confidentiality laws, would not say whether the wounded were also from the Marine Air Ground Combat Center.

Carl is close to the Marines and sailors here. For years he had a shop in Long Beach, but when the Navy pulled out, he moved to the high desert and has seen two wars' Marines head to battle, first in Kuwait, now in Iraq.

"I saw ones go into the first one in Kuwait, and now there's a whole new branch," Carl said. "We try to keep a special place in our shop and our heart for these folks."

Though the town 60 miles from Palm Springs was quiet Saturday, the mood on the base was grim but focused, base spokeswoman 1st Lt. Christy Kercheval said.

"The loss of any Marine life is always tragic it makes for a somewhat somber mood," Kercheval told The Associated Press. "But at the same time, just as the president said in his recent speech, the best way to honor the loss is to carry out the mission that they defended."

The Marines of the 2-7 were attached to Regimental Combat Team 8 based at Camp LeJeune in North Carolina. Initial reports were that the men were from the North Carolina base.

"Words will never describe accurately the honor, courage and commitment of these fallen Marines and sailors," Col. William Crowe, the 7th Marine Regiment's commanding officer, said in a statement released by the base. "Seventh Marine Regiment is deeply saddened by the terrible loss of life of 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines. These men did not give their lives in vain, and we will not soon forget our fellow brothers."

Over on Twentynine Palms Highway near the intersection of Adobe Road, K.U. Macon, the man friends call "Brother Bear," had set up a makeshift barbecue stand in the parking lot of an auto detail shop.

With a grill, a table and a few plastic chairs for ambiance, Macon filled up a plate heavy with sausage, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, potato salad and sweet potato pie and smiled a smile that belied his feelings about the grim news and the war.

"They need to bring those people home and let (Iraqis) handle their own business," Macon said. He said he was worried about the mounting death toll, domestic woes - homelessness, the hurricanes that battered the Gulf coast, the economy.

At least 2,124 U.S. troops have died since the war began, according to an Associated Press count.

"Look at how many people here are homeless - that's the way to look at it," Macon said. "We're U.S. citizens, and (the government doesn't) want to give us a helping hand."

Farther down Twentynine Palms Highway, a corporal's dress blues hung on a post in front of Lance Cpl. Brian Jackson's home. Jackson, 24, of the base's 3rd Battalion, 11th Marines, has 30 days left of a six-year hitch, and the yard-sale sign was out. Soon, he'll be back home in Tucson, Ariz., looking for a new start. But first came more news about the war.

A reporter told him of the 2-7's loss, and Jackson closed his eyes.

He said he had stopped checking on news sites like CNN.com and watching the news, hoping to avoid reports of deaths in Iraq.

"It's a depressing war," he finally said. "My friends say there's so much red tape that they can't do anything about. I feel for the guys out there."

Jackson talked about comrades who've had trouble sleeping upon their return stateside, another who watched a friend killed by an explosive while on patrol.

"It's sad," he said, then groaned softly. "Just like every other war."

End of operations

Operation Matraqa Hadidia (Iron Hammer) is in its final stages with the completion of construction of a long-term basing in the Hai Al Becker region on the eastern side of the Euphrates River across from Hit and approximately 170 km west of Baghdad.


Blackanthem.com, CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, AR RAMADI, Iraq, December 03, 2005 14:52

Operation Matraqa Hadidia (Iron Hammer) is in its final stages with the completion of construction of a long-term basing in the Hai Al Becker region on the eastern side of the Euphrates River across from Hit and approximately 170 km west of Baghdad.

Long-term Iraqi-U.S. security presence was established in Hit last summer as part of Operation Saif (Sword). Now the villages on the eastern side of the Euphrates River will benefit from the security and stability brought by Iraqi Army soldiers and U.S. Forces.

Approximately 500 Iraqi Army soldiers from 2nd Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division and 1,500 Marines and Sailors from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit along with 500 Soldiers from 2nd Battalion-114th Field Artillery Regiment participated in Iron

There were no Iraqi Army or U.S. Forces casualties during Operation Iron Hammer. No air strikes or use of lethal force occurred during the operation. There were no reports of civilian casualties or disruption of basic services, such as water and utilities.

Also, Iraqi Army and Coalition Forces wrapped up Operation Harba (Shank) in central and southern Ramadi today. The operation was the fifth in a series of operations by the Iraqi Army and Coalition Forces conducting combined clearing operations to disrupt the insurgency and set the conditions for a successful Dec. 15 election in the provincial capital of Al Anbar.

The operation primarily involved targeted raids conducted by Iraqi Army soldiers and U.S. Forces against insurgent safe houses in the area. The raids resulted in the detention of four suspected members of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) who were held for questioning.

Approximately 200 Iraqi Army soldiers from 1st Brigade, 7th Division and 300 Marines from 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team took part in Operation Shank.

Due to disruption operations in and around Ramadi and throughout the province, attacks by al-Qaeda in Iraq-led insurgent have decreased in Ramadi.

By Capt. Jeffrey S. Pool
Public Affairs Officer

December 3, 2005

Two Pendleton Marines killed in I-5 crash

ENCINITAS – Two Camp Pendleton Marines who tried to get out of a car after it hit a center wall on an Encinitas freeway Saturday were fatally struck by another vehicle allegedly driven by an intoxicated man, authorities said.


11:10 a.m. December 3, 2005

ENCINITAS – Two Camp Pendleton Marines who tried to get out of a car after it hit a center wall on an Encinitas freeway Saturday were fatally struck by another vehicle allegedly driven by an intoxicated man, authorities said.

The crashes happened about 3 a.m. on northbound Interstate 5 just south of Encinitas Boulevard, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The Volvo in which the Marines – ages 21 and 22 – were in ended up in the far left lane following the crash into the wall, Medical Examiner Investigator Michael Ellano said.

Before they were completely out of the car, a Honda Accord moving at more than 100 mph slammed into the Volvo, causing major blunt force trauma to the Marines, Ellano said.

The Honda driver was taken to a hospital, where he underwent surgery for a broken heel, the CHP said.

He was to be arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, Ellano said.

Authorities shut down the southbound lanes for three hours while they investigated the crash and cleared the wreckage, the CHP said.

Marine Corps officials have not released the names of the victims.

Wives of deployed Marines supporting each other

Spouses of ‘individual augments’ banding together at Camp Courtney

By Erik Slavin, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Sunday, December 4, 2005

CAMP COURTNEY, Okinawa — Wives of deployed Marines usually have the support of their husbands’ battalion to help them make it through the tough times.

To continue reading:


3/7 finishes Operation Shank

AR RAMADI, Iraq (Dec. 3, 2005) -- Marines from 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment recently worked with Iraqi Army soldiers during Operation Shank in an effort to decrease the insurgent threat before the upcoming elections.


Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division (FWD)
Story Identification #: 20051220212127
Story by Cpl. Shane Suzuki

The two-day battalion-size operation, allowed the Marines and IA to get “eyes on” some different areas of the city that haven’t been patrolled before and, more importantly, allowed the Marines to find out where the insurgents aren’t,” said 2nd Lt. Walter Larisey, 1st Platoon commander for Company L.

Beginning the morning of Dec. 2, Shank quickly proved effective when the combined efforts of the battalion’s Weapons Company and Company K resulted in four possible Al Qaeda in Iraq members being detained. Company L began their operation the next night during a cordon and knock mission in central Ar Ramadi.

“It went really well,” said Larisey. “We went out, conducted a coordinated operation that took more than three hours and came back with everyone. Although, we didn’t find any weapons caches, we did develop some very good (information) for future operations. Right now, we are doing a great job of disrupting the enemy and making them uncomfortable here.”

As the elections draw near, insurgent groups in the city seem to be more and more concerned with the people getting a taste of democracy and freedom. They know they are losing the battle here and that, if they don’t do something soon, they will lose the war, said Larisey.

“The insurgents are worried about the people voting, so they are spreading propaganda here,” he said. “But, the people here are really excited about voting. They are in the city talking about the elections, which is great because the insurgents are very worried about a large turnout this time.”

In addition to the normal raids and operations the battalion conducts on a regular basis, Shank utilized a larger number of Iraqi soldiers than normal and proved that the work and time put into training the IA is paying off.

“These actions prove the Iraqi Army is truly making very rapid advances,” said Lt. Col. Abdul Majeed, commander of the 3-2-1 Iraqi Army. “With time, we will be able to secure all of Ramadi and remove all of the hidden enemy cache points.”

The increase in the IA’s operational effectiveness and citizen-provided intelligence is a huge blow to the insurgency, especially during recent operations such as Machete and Tigers.

“Information leading to the discovery of caches sites came from Ramadi citizens,” said Lt. Col. Robert R. Roggeman, commander of Task Force 2-69. “During Operation Tigers, our elements continued to erode the insurgents’ ability to make war against both Coalition and Iraqi Forces, as well as the innocent people of Ramadi.”

With the elections coming up and the success of Operations Shank and Machete, the Marines are heading into December looking forward to the next step in the transition of Iraq - handing over the responsibility of safety and security from the Coalition Forces to the Iraqi Army and Police forces and bringing stability to the country of Iraq.

“We remain dedicated in our mission to bring peace and prosperity to the citizens of Ramadi and the Al Anbar province,” said Roggeman.

One Iraq Operation Ends, Another in Final Stages

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2005 – Operation Shank wrapped up today, officials in Iraq announced.


American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2005 – Operation Shank wrapped up today, officials in Iraq announced.

The operation, conducted in central and southern Ramadi, was the fifth in a series by the Iraqi army and coalition forces engaged in combined clearing operations to disrupt terrorism and set conditions for a successful Dec. 15 election in the provincial capital of Anbar.

Shank primarily involved targeted raids conducted by Iraqi soldiers and U.S. forces against terrorist safe houses in the area. The raids resulted in the detention of four suspected members of al Qaeda in Iraq, who were held for questioning.

About 200 Iraqi soldiers from 1st Brigade, 7th Division, and 300 Marines from 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, took part in Shank.

Officials also announced today that Operation Iron Hammer was in its final stages, with the completion of construction of a long-term basing in the Hai al Becker region on the eastern side of the Euphrates River across from Hit and about 170 kilometers west of Baghdad.

Long-term Iraqi-U.S. security presence was established in Hit last summer as part of Operation Sword. Now the villages on the eastern side of the Euphrates River will benefit from the security and stability brought by Iraqi soldiers and U.S. forces, officials noted.

About 500 Iraqi soldiers from 2nd Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division, and 1,500 Marines and sailors from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, along with 500 soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 114th Field Artillery Regiment, have taken part in Iron Hammer.

No Iraqi Army or U.S. forces reported casualties during Iron Hammer. No air strikes or use of lethal force occurred during the operation. In addition, no reports of civilian casualties or disruption of basic services, such as water and utilities, occurred.

Death in Iraq: Our own

UNION CITY — Two Marines dressed in green knocked on the door of Shirley Watson's Union City apartment about 2 a.m. Friday.


Andy Rathbun
The Enquirer

UNION CITY — Two Marines dressed in green knocked on the door of Shirley Watson's Union City apartment about 2 a.m. Friday.

She let them in. They asked her to sit down.

Then they said the dreaded words: 'We hate to inform you that your son has been killed,'" Watson said. "I just started crying."

Craig Watson, a 2003 graduate of Union City High School, is the first person from the Battle Creek area to be killed during the Iraqi conflict, which began in March 2003 and has resulted in 2,124 military deaths.

Craig was 21 years old.

Shirley said Craig had been on foot patrol near Fallujah when an improvised explosive device, also known as a roadside bomb, killed him and nine other Marines on Thursday. Eleven more were injured. It was his second tour of duty in Iraq.

Putnam Funeral Home will handle his funeral arrangements, though Craig's body won't be home for a week to 10 days. He is survived by his parents, Shirley and Jay Watson, and his brothers James, 31, Kevin, 20, and Brad, 20.

Craig, a lance corporal, joined the Marines in part because of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Shirley said. She wasn't thrilled about the choice, but Craig thought military service would help him get a position with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. She eventually agreed to the career.

Craig had been a practical joker in high school.

"He would get the biggest kick out of Saran-wrapping somebody's car and sticking forks and knives in teachers' yards," Shirley said.

His younger brother Brad said he would coat those utensils with Vaseline, making them more difficult to pull from the ground.

Craig wasn't only a jester; he also was an athlete and outdoorsman. He wrestled throughout high school and was a defensive tackle for the football team, Brad said. Craig's mom remembered his love of fishing and hunting.

Shirley said Craig's first tour — in a relatively combat-free zone of Iraq — changed him.

"When he came home, he had found that he had grown up a lot more than some of the guys around here," Shirley said.

His friend Chris Onofrio noticed the change. The two played football together and would ramble through town, finding fun where they could. After Craig's first tour in Iraq ended, the two went to a graduation party, he said.

"His voice was all hoarse, his head was shaven," Onofrio said. "You could tell he was different, matured a little bit. He was really proud of what he was doing."

Paul Smeltzer got to know Craig when he coached him in high school as a varsity wrestler. He called Craig "one of the finest outstanding young men I probably ever knew."

Smeltzer choked back tears as he recalled Craig. He said Craig would often fight in the weight class above him, taking on an opponent who outweighed him by as much as 25 pounds to help the team. They were more difficult matches and not certain victories. Nonetheless, he usually got a victory, Smeltzer said.

"He never ever really thought of himself," Smeltzer said of Craig. "He did what was best for the group whether it was the wrestling team, or his unit, or all of America."

Smeltzer also teaches fifth grade at Union City Middle School. Smeltzer's class had recently "adopted" Craig. They wrote him on Wednesday. Smeltzer intended to mail the letters today.

"We're going to be giving them to his family," Smeltzer said.

Family friend Eva Plato remembered Craig as "awesome."

"You just wanted to hug him," she said. "He was just that kind of person. I can't explain it."

Andy Rathbun can be reached at 962-3380 or [email protected]

Originally published December 3, 2005

Macon Marine killed in gun fight in Iraq

A Marine corporal from Macon was killed in combat in Fallujah, Iraq, Wednesday, according to the U.S. Marine Corps.


The Associated Press - MACON, Ga.

Cpl. William G. Taylor, 27, and another Marine died in a gun battle.

"He was doing something he believed in," his mother, Catherine Krattli, said. "I'm proud of my son. Yes, he died and it's a tragedy. But he never turned to drugs, wasn't living in a jail cell. He made his life meaningful, not just for him, but to everyone else in his life."

Taylor had a 4-year-old daughter, Leah Amber, who lives in Jones County.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Portland Marine killed in Iraq

PORTLAND -- For the Huhn family, tragedy struck again Friday when they learned their youngest son, U.S. Marine David Huhn, 24, had been killed in Iraq.


Saturday, December 03, 2005
By Theresa D. Mcclellan
The Grand Rapids Press

PORTLAND -- For the Huhn family, tragedy struck again Friday when they learned their youngest son, U.S. Marine David Huhn, 24, had been killed in Iraq.

Neighbors did not know if Huhn was among the 10 Marines killed and 11 wounded in a roadside bomb explosion Thursday that is being called the deadliest attack against American troops in four months.

Another Michigan Marine, Craig Watson of Union City, also was reported killed Thursday. A family member told Union City school officials Watson was killed by a roadside bomb made from several artillery shells.

Huhn's mother, Diane Huhn, called her Portland neighbors before dawn Friday with the news of her son's death, a family friend said. Word spread quickly through their rural neighborhood.

"She called us at 3 a.m. She and my wife are quite close, and she wanted to make sure we heard it from her. My wife hasn't slept since," said friend and neighbor Larry Schueller.

He recalled David as "a quiet young man, very mannerly with a good sense of humor.

"He lived his entire life in the neighborhood and he was just very quiet and respectful of adults."

Huhn graduated from Portland High School in 2000.

The soldier was last home in February to attend the funeral following the sudden death of his father, Larry Huhn, who suffered a massive heart attack.

David Huhn lost his sister 15 years ago in a farming accident, neighbors said.

His older brother, Kevin, is a former Marine.

"The poor mother, we're just worried and feeling for her," Schueller said.

Huhn's family could not be reached.

Neighbors said Huhn's mother talked to him last week, and he had plans to leave his undisclosed location within six weeks. She had hoped to see him during his next leave.

"This is just real, real sad," Schueller said.

Union City's Watson played on the football and wrestling teams at Union City. He had twin brothers, Brad and Kevin, who also attended the school.

Although he weighed only about 190 pounds, Watson wrestled in the heavyweight division and often went against opponents 30 to 40 pounds heavier, assistant coach Ed Sybesma said. Sometimes he beat them.

"He had to drink a lot of water so he could make weight," Sybesma said. "He was a team player. He sacrificed for the team and also for his country."

Sybesma, a Vietnam veteran, said he and Watson discussed their combat experiences when Watson returned from an earlier tour of duty in Iraq.

"The enemy we were fighting during the day looked like everybody else and at night they were the ones trying to kill you," Sybesma said. "It's the same thing over there (in Iraq)."

Watson believed in the U.S. mission in Iraq, Sybesma said. "He was anxious to go back. I know he was really proud to be a Marine."

Students at Union City High had planned to send a Christmas care package to Watson, and the sixth-grade class had "adopted" him and was preparing to send letters, Sybesma said.

# The Associated Press contributed to this story.

2nd war death hits area

Washington grad killed by roadside bomb in Iraq

The war in Iraq on Thursday claimed its second local casualty in less than two months, when a 27-year-old Pensacola native was killed by a roadside bomb.


Kristen Rasmussen

Daniel Clay, a Washington High School graduate, was one of 10 U.S. Marines killed by an improvised explosive device near Fallujah, his family said Friday.

Although Marine officials had not released the identities of all the victims as of Friday evening, Clay's family members, who were notified of his death Thursday evening, said Friday that he was among them.

They declined further comment.

Some who knew Clay said being a Marine was one of his longtime dreams. He was a member of the Junior ROTC program at Washington and enlisted in the U.S. armed forces shortly after his graduation in 1996, said Alex Golovko, Clay's high school cross-country running coach.

"I thought (Clay) was very sharp," Golovko said. "He even looked like a Marine in high school. He was very well-disciplined."

Everett Whiteside, who also coached Clay in track and cross country at Washington, describing him as an "outstanding young man" who "earned the respect of his teammates."

"He put country and service first above everything else, and I'm sure that's the type of soldier he was," Whiteside said. "He was a natural leader."

According to the Pentagon, the roadside bomb that killed the 10 Marines and wounded 11 others -- all of whom were on foot patrol -- was fashioned from several large artillery shells.

It was the deadliest attack against American troops since August and brought to at least 2,124 the number of service members killed since the beginning of the war in March 2003.

Marine Cpl. Jonathan "J.R." Spears, 21, of Molino was the 2,000th U.S. armed forces death in Iraq and the first from the Pensacola Bay Area. He was fatally shot on Oct. 23.

In addition to Washington High, Clay also attended Scenic Heights Elementary and Ferry Pass Middle schools, a childhood friend said. The son of Sara Jo and Bud Clay, Daniel Clay has three surviving sisters, the youngest of whom, Katy Clay, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2003. A fourth sister died last year.

Clay and his wife resided in California. It was not immediately known whether the couple have any children.

"All he ever talked about was joining the military," said Chris Smith, 27, who became friends with Clay when they were in second grade. "He was always going the extra mile to get things done for his friends. He was absolutely a great guy."

Maryland town mourns two young Marines

PARKTON, Md. -- They were the best of friends - classmates and football teammates in high school, and roommates at Marine boot camp who went on to units at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Then they both went to Iraq, and died in combat six weeks apart. Cpl. Joshua D. Snyder, 20, died Wednesday of wounds from small-arms fire in Fallujah, the Pentagon announced Thursday. Lance Cpl. Norman Anderson III, 21, died in October after a suicide bomb exploded in Karabilah.



PARKTON, Md. -- They were the best of friends - classmates and football teammates in high school, and roommates at Marine boot camp who went on to units at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Then they both went to Iraq, and died in combat six weeks apart. Cpl. Joshua D. Snyder, 20, died Wednesday of wounds from small-arms fire in Fallujah, the Pentagon announced Thursday. Lance Cpl. Norman Anderson III, 21, died in October after a suicide bomb exploded in Karabilah.

They are among more than 2,100 U.S service members who have died since the beginning of the war in 2003. Another 10 Marines were killed Thursday by a roadside bomb in the deadliest attack against American troops in four months.

In Maryland, a red, white and blue wreath sat in front of their northern Baltimore County high school on Friday in Snyder's memory.

"This can't be happening again," said Steve Turnbaugh, football coach at Hereford High School. Snyder and Anderson played on the 2001 State Championship football team and always wanted to go into the Marines, he said. They graduated in 2002.

"I get close to these kids, especially when you coach them for four years," Turnbaugh said, referring to his former players as heroes. "They're like my own kids and there is no comfort in losing a child."

He remembered Snyder for always trying to help out, even though he didn't make the team his senior year. He assumed the role of a team coach and never missed a practice, said Turnbaugh.

His dedication to the team paid off and after players begged the coach, Snyder was granted playing time during the playoffs of their championship season, the coach said.

Snyder sat front and center in their 2001 team picture, which still hangs in the weight room of the high school.

"I see their picture every day. I don't even want to look up there anymore," said Turnbaugh. "It's just like having two brothers killed. It's unbelievable."

Anderson's football jersey was retired in a ceremony before a game shortly after his death. The school is planning a similar honor for Snyder.

Cheryl Burkett, a teacher and Snyder's work study program adviser, remembers him for being a hard worker and very caring.

"He took care of everybody," she said. "He was a solid gentleman."

She said he worked with special needs children and took on the "big brother" role with one young boy when he was a senior.

"We're a very tight-knit community," said principal John V. Bereska. "Their deaths have a big impact on everyone at the school."

Little Falls Marine killed in Iraq

LITTLE FALLS — While Minnesota mourned the loss Friday of two of its Marines, friends and family in Little Falls felt the pain more personally. (Anthony McElveen)


By Tracey Compton
[email protected]

LITTLE FALLS — While Minnesota mourned the loss Friday of two of its Marines, friends and family in Little Falls felt the pain more personally.

News that Anthony McElveen, a 2003 graduate of Little Falls High School, had died in Iraq came as a shock to many Friday morning. McElveen is believed to be one of 10 U.S. Marines who died Thursday in a blast from a makeshift bomb outside Fallujah. Although the U.S. military Friday reported four deaths in addition to the 10 killed in the roadside bomb explosion, none is believed to be a Marine.

It was the deadliest attack on U.S. forces in almost four months. Also reported dead was Scott Modeen, 24, a 2000 graduate of Cooper High School in New Hope. Eleven soldiers were wounded when a device made of several artillery shells exploded, the military said.

Randy Tabatt was McElveen's sociology and advanced-placement history teacher at Little Falls High School.

Tabatt said he learned of the death just before classes started Friday, during a call from Deborah McElveen, the Marine's mother.

"What do you say to comfort a mother who just lost her son?" Tabatt said.

He described McElveen as a mature young man, proud and willing to do what it took to be a Marine.

"You could just see the pride and the focus he had," Tabatt said of McElveen's dedication to the Marine Corps.

Tabatt remembers McElveen returning to the high school several times after graduation to report his progress in the Marine Corps. It was his mission to serve, and that determination was even more real after he returned from basic training, Tabatt said of his conversations with McElveen. Tabatt last talked to him in June when McElveen's younger sister graduated from high school.

McElveen completed basic training in 2003 at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego and was on his second tour of duty when he died.

"I was always happy to have him come back and talk to us because he really was a fantastic man," Tabatt said. "He was friends with everybody that met him."

Dwight Nelson, McElveen's band instructor, said his former student became more passionate with his military service. Nelson said McElveen, who played alto saxophone, was not quiet but kept to himself as a student. He was a pretty good musician but divided his time between playing goalie on the school hockey team and his martial arts hobbies.

McElveen was not the type to talk to kids, but he did want people to know that the military was doing good things in Iraq.

"He had the whole place spellbound" when he returned to talk to students, Nelson said. "The passion he had for his mission — it was just neat to see him so proud of what he was doing."

The discipline he learned while a member of the marching band won him compliments from superiors in basic training, Nelson said. On one of his trips home, Nelson said, McElveen thanked him for what he had taught him.

"He was so proud, so proud," Nelson said. "That's what I'll always remember about him."

Bank and customers answer call to help Marines phone home

Londonderry — When the men of Bravo Company, First Battalion, 25th Marines, find themselves thousands of miles from family, in a strange land that looks and feels nothing like New Hampshire, just the briefest chance to hear a voice from home might make all the difference.


Union Leader Correspondent
11 hours, 22 minutes ago

Londonderry — When the men of Bravo Company, First Battalion, 25th Marines, find themselves thousands of miles from family, in a strange land that looks and feels nothing like New Hampshire, just the briefest chance to hear a voice from home might make all the difference.

And when the company goes overseas today, each Marine will be carrying an overseas calling card to ensure that when they need to call home, they can. The cards — 100 in all — were presented to them yesterday by St. Mary’s Bank.

Depending on where the company ends up being deployed, each card should last about 15 minutes. But, that’s only the start.

Raymond E. Pinard, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Manchester-based bank, stepped into a briefing held yesterday at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Londonderry, where the company is based, and explained to the Marines that, his bank wanted to thank the company for its service. The cards were bought by the bank, with the help of customers, and Pinard said they should be the first of many care packages sent to the company.

“With your permission, we’d like to adopt your company,” Pinard said.

The Marines replied, in unison, with a traditional Marine Corps response – “Oohra!”

Standing outside the briefing, 1st Sgt. Gary Hubbard, a reservist from Belmont, who returned from Afghanistan at the beginning of last month, has volunteered to return overseas with the company today. Hubbard said the opportunities to call home are sometimes few and far between, and having cards to ensure that every chance to call can be taken is hugely valuable.

St. Mary’s Bank will be putting up a display in their Londonderry branch where pictures and notes from the Marines of Bravo Company will be posted. They will also collect donations to help the bank continue providing personal items in care packages.

Family reels at news of Scappoose Marine's death

The knock on the door came at 1 a.m. Friday.

Tim and Paula Holmason scrambled out of bed and asked who was there.

The United States Marines, a voice answered


Saturday, December 03, 2005
The Oregonian


The knock on the door came at 1 a.m. Friday.

Tim and Paula Holmason scrambled out of bed and asked who was there.

The United States Marines, a voice answered.

Lance Cpl. John Holmason, a 20-year-old Scappoose High School graduate, was one of 10 Marines killed Thursday in an ambush near Fallujah, Iraq, they were told.

"You know when you get a knock like that at the door after midnight, the news isn't going to be good," said Paula Holmason, the Marine's stepmom. "But he was proud to be a Marine, and he believed 100 percent in what he was fighting for."

John Holmason became the 58th person with strong ties to Oregon and Southwest Washington to die in Iraq, Pakistan or Afghanistan. His family in Oregon spent the rest of Friday trying to come to grips with their loss.

"It seemed like just the longest day," Paula Holmason said, adding that her husband was too broken up to talk. "One minute you're fine and then the next . . . ." Her voice trailed off.

The Marine's mother, Karla Comfort, lives in Michigan and could not be reached for comment.

John Holmason was deployed to Iraq on July 4, Paula Holmason said. He had been stationed at Twentynine Palms, Calif.

In Scappoose, where his father and stepmother live, he was an Eagle Scout who joined the Boy Scouts in grade school. As a youngster, he gravitated toward the outdoors and enjoyed hunting with his father.

"He loved to do anything with his dad," Paula Holmason said. "He just looked up to him so much."

In high school, he played a few years on the golf team and liked to hang out with his friends. After he finished school, Paula Holmason said, her stepson wasn't sure what he wanted to do. "He struggled a little bit and was trying to find himself."

Relatives said he worked in restaurants and eventually moved to Phoenix. There, he worked at an Applebee's restaurant before enlisting in the fall of 2004. He went to boot camp at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

His grandfather, Dick Holmason of Scappoose, said John wanted to be in the infantry and was working toward a position in special operations. He wanted to be an elite fighter.

"He joined the Marines because he believed in what was going on," Dick Holmason said. "He felt like it was an opportunity to do something worthwhile, where he could make a difference."

In a November 2004 letter, after finishing one of the hardest weeks in boot camp, he told his grandparents that he had never felt better about himself. "If I can handle boot camp, I can handle anything," he wrote.

Through tears, Dick Holmason affectionately recalled extended motorhome trips with his grandchildren to Disneyland. He said John always took time out for him and his wife, Julie. "We were almost like his extended parents," he said. "John had a good heart. He always had a smile and was very easy to talk to."

In January, John Holmason had returned, in uniform, to Scappoose High School, said Vice Principal Eric Viuhkola.

"He seemed very happy with himself and what he was doing," Viuhkola said. "He seemed like he had a little more confidence in himself."

Paula Holmason said her stepson was so proud of being in the Marines that he got a tattoo across his back and shoulders that read: Death Before Dishonor. He was scheduled to come home in January in time for a family trip to Las Vegas.

The reason?

"He wanted to celebrate his 21st birthday with his dad and anyone else who wanted to come," she said. "Every letter he wrote ended with 'I can't wait for Vegas.' It was just a few months away."

She said the family -- which includes a 9-year-old sister and two brothers, ages 6 and 4 -- will wait to hear from the Marines before deciding how to handle the services. It's unclear when or where they will be held, she said.

"We're just trying to figure out what to do next," she said.

David Austin: 503-294-5910; [email protected] Mark Larabee: 503-294-7664; [email protected]

Two area Marines killed in Iraq- Houston Area

1 from Cleveland dies in Fallujah blast; Houstonian is fatally injured in vehicle accident

Two Houston-area Marines — Lance Cpl. Robert Alexander Martinez and Staff Sgt. William D. Richardson — were killed this week in the war in Iraq.


Dec. 3, 2005, 3:22AM

Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

Martinez, 20, of Cleveland, was scheduled to end his second tour of duty on Jan. 12. He was killed Thursday night in a roadside bomb near Fallujah, authorities said.

Ten Marines on foot patrol from the 2nd Marine Division were reported killed about 30 miles west of Baghdad near Fallujah on Thursday night, in one of the deadliest attacks on U.S. troops in recent months. Authorities could not confirm Friday whether Martinez was part of that group.

Richardson, 30, of Houston, was also on his second tour when he died Wednesday from wounds sustained during a nonhostile vehicle accident near Al Taqaddum.

During his last trip home, Martinez visited his high school in Cleveland, where he expressed pride in being part of an elite military unit that he felt was making a difference for the people in Iraq. Martinez had been based at the Marine Corp Air Ground and Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, Calif., which had also been the home of the 10 troop members killed Thursday.

He joined the Marines just days after graduating from Cleveland High School in 2003, said his stepfather, Jeremy Hunt, of Splendora.

"He always wanted to be a Marine. He didn't want to do anything second best. He knew they were one of the elite fighting forces, best trained and motivated," Hunt said.

After Martinez enlisted, his mother, Kelly, and stepfather kept their front yard decorated with yellow ribbons, an American flag and signs that said, "Support Our Troops," "God Bless America" and "U.S. Marine Corps Parking Only."

"He enjoyed being in the Corps and was proud of it. He knew he was there for a reason and had a job to do to help resolve the situation," Hunt said.

Cleveland High School Principal Mike Ogden remembers Martinez talking about his pride in the Marines during his last visit to the campus.

"He thought he was making a difference in so many people's lives. He said the Iraqis had a tough life and he wanted to help them have a better one," Ogden said.

Martinez is the only alumnus of the school who lost his life in the war, Ogden said.

Martinez was a baseball pitcher at the school and dreamed of getting his education degree and coaching the sport, Ogden said.

"He loved baseball," Hunt said. "And he also loved to spend time with family and friends, barbecuing and making people smile."

Martinez had confided to his family that when he returned home in January that he was planning to propose to his girlfriend. "He is going to be deeply missed," Hunt said.

His father, James Kevin McGehee, sister, Candice McGehee, 16, and brother James M. McGehee, 14, all of Cleveland, could not be reached for comment.

Funeral arrangements are pending. Martinez's body is being held in Kuwait before being shipped to Washington, D.C., and then Houston.

Richardson had been based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., where he was assigned to Marine Wing Support Squadron-372, Marine Wing Support Group-37, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. In Iraq, his unit was attached to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, II Marine Expeditionary Force.

Richardson's family could not be reached.

According to records released by the Department of Defense, Richardson joined the Marine Corps in June 1994.

He was awarded three of the Navy and Marine Corp Achievement Medals, two Navy Commendations, two Navy Meritorious Unit Commendations, three Marine Good Conduct Medals, two National Defense Service Medals, as well as the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Chronicle reporter Anne Marie Kilday contributed to this report.

[email protected]

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Ten Marines killed in Iraq were from Southern California base

TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Ten Marines who were killed by a bomb blast in Iraq were part of an expeditionary force based in this Southern California desert base, the Pentagon said Saturday.


Associated Press

TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Ten Marines who were killed by a bomb blast in Iraq were part of an expeditionary force based in this Southern California desert base, the Pentagon said Saturday.

Originally reported as being assigned to Camp Lejeune, N.C., the Marines never spent time there and only were attached to a unit from that base when they deployed overseas in July, military officials said.

"They are absolutely our own," said 1st Lt. Christy Kercheval, a spokeswoman for the Twentynine Palms base.

The slain men were assigned to the Lejeune-based 2nd Marine Division and were on foot patrol outside Fallujah, a former insurgent stronghold, when a bomb fashioned from four large artillery shells exploded Thursday.

The ambush was the deadliest against American troops in four months.

No basewide monument or memorial service was planned but the deaths were noted at a facility that has lost 75 Marines since the Iraq hostilities began. About 1,600 Marines from two Twentynine Palms-based battalions are deployed in Iraq.

"The loss of any Marine life is always tragic. ... it makes for a somewhat somber mood," Kercheval said. "But at the same time, just as the president said in his recent speech, the best way to honor the loss is to carry out the mission that they defended."

The men - with hometowns stretching from Tomah, Wis. to Surprise, Ariz. - were part of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division of the California-based I Marine Expeditionary Force.

"Words will never describe accurately the honor, courage and commitment of these fallen Marines and sailors," Col. William B. Crowe, commander of the 7th Marines, said Saturday in a statement. "These men did not give their lives in vain, and we will not soon forget our fellow brothers."

Only one Marine was from California, however. Cpl. Anthony T. McElveen, 20, was born in Ventura, although his parents moved to Minnesota when he was young.

McElveen is survived by his wife, Carrie; and his father Thomas and mother Debra, who both live in Little Falls, Minn.

Altogether, at least 2,124 U.S. soldiers have died since the war began, according to an Associated Press count.

For Some Marines, Deaths of Comrades Fuel Doubts

OCEANSIDE, Calif., Dec. 2 - Half a world away and a day later, the deadly blast of a roadside bomb in Falluja stopped young marines in their tracks here on Friday.


Published: December 3, 2005

OCEANSIDE, Calif., Dec. 2 - Half a world away and a day later, the deadly blast of a roadside bomb in Falluja stopped young marines in their tracks here on Friday.

This latest improvised explosive device - the military's bloodless jargon for every soldier and marine's worst fear, the death you don't see coming - claimed the lives of 10 marines and wounded 11 more, the worst attack on American troops in four months.

Families were still being notified, so word had scarcely begun to spread in Oceanside, on the doorstep of Camp Pendleton, or in Jacksonville, N.C., home to Camp Lejeune, the two bases that military officials hinted would bear the brunt of the mourning.

Both cities have grown all too accustomed to this ritual, of hearing the news, steeling for the details, grieving and getting on with life till the next time: Camp Pendleton has lost more than 255 troops in Iraq, Camp Lejeune more than 140.

But the nature of Thursday's attack, hitting troops on foot patrol with a powerful bomb fashioned from several heavy artillery shells, seemed to a group of marines meandering along downtown Oceanside's yellow-ribboned storefronts on Friday afternoon like another ratcheting up of the risks.

And yet another reason for the young marines to voice doubts about the mission in Iraq.

Lance Cpl. Tom Moran, at 20 already a veteran of two years in the Corps and two tours in Iraq, blinked in disbelief. "They don't usually try to hit us on foot," he said. "They usually go after you in armored vehicles."

He said his unit had been getting plenty of training in dealing with improvised explosive devices. "But it's very hard to spot them," he said.

"They keep finding new things to make them out of," said Pfc. Harrison Records, 22, of Bakersfield, Calif.

Another young marine seemed less struck by the size of the bomb than by the number of casualties. "We don't need to be there no more," said Pfc. Chris Blow, 19, of Dallas, speaking under his breath. But a moment later, his face tightened into anger. "It makes me want to go over again even more, and get some of them," he said.

In Jacksonville, where memorial services for as many as 20 marines have been held in the last few weeks, the Falluja attack still hit hard, said Staff Sgt. Angela Mink, a base spokeswoman. "Last night I was singing 'Have a Very Merry Christmas,' and today, this," she said. "Every time you lose someone, it's like a punch in the stomach, and it's a sucker-punch at that. We have to deal with it, and we have to talk to the media about it, but it's like trying to talk nonchalantly about the fact that your kid brother got killed."

At a tattoo parlor near the main gate to Camp Lejeune, Lance Cpl. Clinton Fort, 21, of Marietta, Ga., was getting one of his five tattoos touched up. He showed off his latest, the one he got as soon as he returned from Iraq in October: a helmet, saying "R.I.P. Klinger," rested on a rifle in a pair of military boots.

Corporal Fort said that Klinger - he couldn't remember his friend's first name, but missed him just the same - was killed by a roadside bomb in Falluja over the summer. "He was just Klinger to me," he said.

He said he had seen and heard more roadside bombs go off than he could count. Back stateside, he said, he finds himself seizing up just seeing trash bags in his neighbors' driveways. "I expect them to blow up, even if I know I'm home," he said. "I'm still on the edge."

Corporal Fort said he, like other marines, was getting more and more eager for a withdrawal from Iraq. "We're marines, and we're going do what we've got to do, but now it seems like all that is happening is that marines are dying," he said. "I wish we could just pull out and go home to our families."

Here in Oceanside, Matt, a 23-year-old Marine corporal, strolled with his new wife, Missy, along a pier as the sun set and surfers caught the day's last waves. They had just watched his younger brother graduate from boot camp.

"I have no problem going over there, doing what my country asks," said Matt, who asked that his name not be used because he was afraid of retaliation from his superiors. "But sometimes it seems like there's no point any more. We've gone, we did what we needed to do, but we're still there. That country's always going to be fighting. That's their history. If we were to stay till we're finished, we'd probably never leave."

John DeSantis contributed reporting from Pennsylvaniafor this article, and Majsan Bostrom from Jacksonville, N.C.
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December 2, 2005

Local Serviceman killed in Iraq

By the time Lance Corporal Robert Martinez started his senior year at Cleveland High School, he'd already signed up to enlist in the Marines. When he graduated in June of 2003, the Iraq war was already underway.


Local serviceman killed in Iraq
KTRK By Ted Oberg

(12/02/05 - KTRK/SPLENDORA, TX) - Ten Marines were killed and now ten families are in mourning. A Splendora man was one of the Marines killed by a roadside bomb Thursday. He was a man who thought he would be back at home by now.

By the time Lance Corporal Robert Martinez started his senior year at Cleveland High School, he'd already signed up to enlist in the Marines. When he graduated in June of 2003, the Iraq war was already underway.

Martinez left for basic training five days after graduation. He was supposed to come home next week, but the Marines extended his tour.

"My wife answered the door and I heard my wife call my name," said Jeremy Hunt, Robert's father. "I knew something was wrong."

Hunt got the knock on the door at 1am Friday. A Marine's father doesn't need to hear the words to know what's happened.

"Every time you saw a caption on the bottom of the screen or heard of a bombing, or heard a Marine dying, your heart stopped," he said.

Robert, just 20 years old, was on his second Iraqi tour. The Marine infantryman spent seven months on the Syrian border in 2004. He went back to Iraq and into Fallujah in June. On a dawn foot patrol outside Fallujah Thursday, Robert and nine other Marines were killed when a roadside bomb exploded next to them.

"You'd never think it would happen to you or your family and it's hard," said David Cino, who was friends with Robert.

Robert should never have been there Thursday. He was supposed to come home next Monday. If the Marines hadn't changed plans, Robert would've been in Kuwait packing up to come home. Instead, the Marines extended his tour for a month and a half, most likely to help control Fallujah as elections approach.

He had no choice but to stay, but it must've been terribly hard. Robert had big plans. We're told he was set to propose to a young woman in Splendora over the holidays.

"Robbie was one of those students you love to have around school," said Cleveland High School Principal Mike Ogden. "Robbie was not a valedictorian type or an all-American athlete. He was just one of those kids you just felt good to be around."

It's amazing the things you learn about the young people serving. Robert's dad told us Robert asked for candy, lots of candy, in his care packages. It wasn't to satisfy his own sweet tooth, but to hand out to Iraqi children while out on patrol. He had plans to come home, go to college, and eventually coach baseball.

We've also just learned that a Marine from Houston was killed in Iraq this week. Staff sergeant William Richardson died Wednesday from injuries he sustained in what the Pentagon describes as a non-hostile vehicle accident in central Iraq.
(Copyright © 2005, KTRK-TV)

Minnesota Marine killed in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq — A Minnesota Marine was apparently among 10 Marines killed as a makeshift bomb fashioned from several large artillery shells exploded in the deadliest insurgent attack on American troops in Iraq in almost four months, the Marine Corps said today. (Scott Modeen)



Los Angeles Times

BAGHDAD, Iraq — A Minnesota Marine was apparently among 10 Marines killed as a makeshift bomb fashioned from several large artillery shells exploded in the deadliest insurgent attack on American troops in Iraq in almost four months, the Marine Corps said today.

The family of Scott Modeen, 24, who was a 2000 graduate of Robbinsdale Cooper High School, confirmed they were told early Friday of Modeen’s death. Modeen was the second Twin Cities area Marine killed this week in Iraq. The funeral of Master Sgt. Brett Angus, 40, was held Friday in Eagan.

The deadly blast Thursday evening occurred near Fallujah, a city that had been a symbol of American failure early in the war and an insurgent stronghold until a Marine-led assault just more than a year ago. In addition to the 10 Marines killed, 11 others were wounded in the blast.

On Wednesday, the Bush administration, issuing a 35-page “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq,’’ cited Fallujah as having gone from enemy-controlled territory to Iraqi government-controlled.

With Iraqis scheduled to vote in a parliamentary election Dec. 15, the attack reinforced an expectation of stepped-up violence aimed at disrupting the vote. It also came at a politically sensitive time in the United States, where the Bush administration is under public pressure to reduce the numbers and exposure of U.S. forces in Iraq.

The U.S. military announced the deaths of four other troops Friday.

The Pentagon said the marines killed in Fallujah were on foot but gave no details of the attack or of the troops’ mission. A police official in Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad, said the Marines had been patrolling to find and defuse hidden bombs just outside the city.

It was not known how the bomb was detonated, and there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Improvised explosive devices, which the Pentagon calls IEDs, are the insurgents’ most lethal weapon, accounting for 60 percent of U.S. troop fatalities since August.

Thursday’s blast was the deadliest for U.S. forces in Iraq since 14 Marines and a civilian interpreter were killed Aug. 3 by a roadside bomb that ripped through their lightly armored personnel carrier near Haditha, causing it to flip into the air and explode.

The troops killed in Fallujah were from Regimental Combat Team 8 of the 2nd Marine Division based at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. The Marine statement said seven of those wounded had returned to duty and that their unit was still conducting counterinsurgency operations in and around Fallujah.

On Friday, officials of Iraq’s Interior Ministry said it had banned all non-Iraqi Arabs from entering the country until further notice. They called it a pre-election security measure.

Also, Al-Jazeera television broadcast a videotape and statement in which insurgent kidnappers holding four Christian peace activists — two Canadians, a Briton, and an American — threatened to kill them by Dec. 8 unless all prisoners in U.S. and Iraqi detention centers are released.

The other U.S. military deaths announced Friday were: Three soldiers from the 48th Brigade Combat Team died in a traffic accident south of Baghdad and a U.S. Army soldier assigned to the 2nd Marine Division was killed in a rocket attack near Ramadi. That city is the capital of Anbar Province, which includes Fallujah and is a major center for Sunni Arab insurgent groups opposed to the American presence and the U.S.-backed Iraqi government led by Shiite Muslims and ethnic Kurds.

At least 2,124 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the war in 2003.

Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, the U.S. commander in charge of their training, said Friday that 225,000 members of the Iraqi army and police will be operating during the Dec. 15 election, nearly double the 130,000 fielded when Iraqis elected the provisional National Assembly last in January.

As in previous sweeps of Anbar Province since the spring, Iraqi troops joined with U.S. forces Wednesday in launching an operation against insurgent hide-outs in the city of Hit. But the Iraqi forces’ involvement has not diminished the death toll among U.S. soldiers. Ninety-six were killed in October, the fourth highest monthly toll of the war, and at least 85 died in November.

Thursday’s insurgent attack near Fallujah appeared to undermine an American assertion that its recent sweeps in western Iraq were proving effective.

The operations are aimed at cutting off the flow of foreign fighters, money, explosives and other weapons from Syria. Although U.S. military officials agree that most insurgents are Iraqis, foreign fighters loyal to Jordanian militant Abu Musab Zarqawi are said to play a prominent role in the larger, more lethal explosive attacks.

Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, a senior military spokesman in Baghdad, said this week that the number of makeshift bombs that either exploded or were discovered and cleared fell from 1,869 in October to 1,329 last month. He said the drop was “a direct result of the effectiveness of our operations.”

The bombing in Fallujah was among the most lethal incidents involving U.S. troops.

Thirty Marines and one sailor were killed in January when their helicopter crashed in bad weather in western Iraq. In December, a suicide bombing in a military mess tent near Mosul killed 14 U.S. soldiers and eight others. In November 2003, three downed helicopters in two incidents claimed the lives of 33 American soldiers.

Thousands of American troops are in or around Fallujah. Unmanned aerial drones monitor the city day and night. Marine convoys shuttle between Camp Fallujah, about 12 miles from town, and a small outpost within the city that serves as police headquarters, City Hall and a convention center.

The city became a symbol of America’s early failings in the war when Islamic militants held the town for much of 2004, turning it into a control center for terrorist kidnappings and car bombings throughout the region.

U.S. forces captured the city in November 2004 in the biggest battle since the toppling of President Saddam Hussein in April 2003. For more than a year, the U.S. military and the Iraqi government have been working to rebuild the city, which has a functioning City Council and a police force of local men.

In recent months, insurgents had lowered their profile in Fallujah, although one Marine died of wounds from small-arms fire during combat in the city on Wednesday.

Marines say the insurgent cells still existing in the city are probably local Sunni men who stand opposed to U.S. forces and to the Iraqi government troops who come from outside and are mostly Shiites. Fallujahns, in contrast, say that members of Zarqawi’s group lurk in villages just outside the city.

Local Marine killed in roadside attack

The war in Iraq claimed its second local casualty in less than two months on Thursday when a 27-year-old Pensacola native was killed in a roadside bombing. (Daniel Clay)


The war in Iraq claimed its second local casualty in less than two months on Thursday when a 27-year-old Pensacola native was killed in a roadside bombing.

Daniel Clay, who graduated from Washington High School in 1996, was one of 10 U.S. Marines killed by the explosion near Fallujah, the man’s family said Friday.

Although Marine officials had not identified the names of all of the casualties as of Friday evening, Clay’s family members, who were notified of his death Thursday evening, said he was among them.
They declined to comment further.

Second Marine From Hereford Killed In Iraq

(AP) MICHAEL J. FEENEY They were the best of friends through the stages of their young lives -- classmates and football teammates at Hereford High School, and Marines, where they were roommates at boot camp. (Cpl Joshua D. Snyder and LCpl Norman Anderson)


Sharon Lee

(AP) MICHAEL J. FEENEY They were the best of friends through the stages of their young lives -- classmates and football teammates at Hereford High School, and Marines, where they were roommates at boot camp.

They both went to Iraq, and died in combat six weeks apart.

Cpl. Joshua D. Snyder, 20, of Hampstead, died Wednesday of wounds sustained from small-arms fire while fighting enemy forces in Fallujah, the Department of Defense announced Thursday. Lance Cpl. Norman Anderson III, 21, of Parkton, died Oct. 19 after a suicide bomb exploded while he conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Karabilah, Iraq.

Both graduated from Hereford in 2002.

A red, white and blue wreath sat in front of the northern Baltimore County high school on Friday in Snyder's memory.

"This can't be happening again," Steve Turnbaugh, their high school football coach, said Friday. Both were players on the 2001 State Championship football team and always wanted to go into the Marines, he said.

"I get close to these kids, especially when you coach them for four years," Turnbaugh said, referring to his former players as heroes. "They're like my own kids and there is no comfort in losing a child."

He remembered Snyder for always trying to help out, even though he didn't make the team his senior year. He assumed the role of a team coach and never missed a practice, said Turnbaugh.

His dedication to the team paid off and after players begged the coach, Snyder was granted playing time during the playoffs of their championship season, the coach said.

Snyder, not in uniform, sat front and center in their 2001 team picture, which still hangs in the weight room of the high school.

"I see their picture every day. I don't even want to look up there anymore," said Turnbaugh. "It's just like having two
brothers killed. It's unbelievable."

Anderson's football jersey was retired in a ceremony before a football game shortly after his death, he said. The school is planning to do something similar for Snyder.

For Our Troops, a student support group of soldiers in the war, held a meeting Friday to plan the school's next memorial.

Snyder was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Snyder was also a member of the Future Farmers of America club and the astronomy club.

Cheryl Burkett, a teacher and Snyder's work study program adviser, remembers him for being a hard worker and very caring.

"He took care of everybody," she said. "He was a solid gentleman."

She said he worked with special needs children and took on the "big brother" role with one young boy when he was a senior.

"We're a very tight-knit community," said principal John V. Bereska. "Their deaths have a big impact on everyone at the

Snyder is survived by his younger brother, Brian, who is in the 10th grade at the high school and his mother, Doris, could not be reached for comment.

(© 2005 CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Scappoose Marine killed in Iraq bomb blast

FALLUJAH, Iraq -- A 21-year old Marine from Oregon was among 10 Marines killed when a roadside bomb detonated while they were on a foot patrol near Fallujah, family and friends told KGW on Friday. (John Holmason)


05:37 PM PST on Friday, December 2, 2005

By kgw.com and AP Staff

FALLUJAH, Iraq -- A 21-year old Marine from Oregon was among 10 Marines killed when a roadside bomb detonated while they were on a foot patrol near Fallujah, family and friends told KGW on Friday.

Marine John Holmason of Scappoose.

John Holmason of Scappoose died from the blast, which was the deadliest attack against American troops in four months. In addition to the 10 Marines dead, 11 others were injured.

"He died for this country and our freedom," said Holmason's grandfather, John Orr. "I'm just sorry that it happened."

Plans are underway for a community memorial service for Holmason, who was was a 2002 graduate of Scappoose High School.

The U.S. military had announced the deadly attack that claimed Holmason's life earlier Friday, but they did not release his name or that of the other dead or injured troops. The military said the identities were not released pending notification of their families.

The ambush occurred Thursday against Holmason and other Marines from Regimental Combat Team 8, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., a day after President Bush outlined his strategy for victory in Iraq.

The roadside bomb in Fallujah, the former insurgent headquarters west of the capital, was fashioned from several large artillery shells, the military said.

AP photo

U.S. Army soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division inspect the site of a roadside bomb in Iraq.

U.S. Sen. John Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the ambush a "very serious attack," saying "it appears that this group of Marines had collected - which is always a dangerous thing - in sort of one location."

The Marine unit has suffered some of the highest casualties of the Iraq war.

The military statement said seven of the wounded later returned to duty and that the rest of the team was conducting "counterinsurgency operations throughout Fallujah and the surrounding area" to improve security for the Dec. 15 elections.

The statement also did not give the precise location of the attack - the single deadliest against U.S. troops in Iraq since 14 Marines were killed Aug. 3 when a bomb destroyed their vehicle near Haditha, 140 miles northwest of Baghdad.

With at least 793 American deaths this year, 2005 appears on track to become the deadliest year since the U.S.-led invasion. There were 846 deaths in 2004, and 485 in 2003.

U.S. forces have stepped up military operations throughout the Sunni Arab regions west of Baghdad to cut off the flow of weapons, ammunition and foreign fighters entering the country from Syria and to reduce insurgent activity.

As part of that campaign, the U.S. military on Friday launched a new offensive - Operation Shank - in Ramadi, capital of the insurgent-ridden Anbar province. About 200 Iraqi army soldiers and 300 U.S. Marines were taking part in the offensive, the fifth in Ramadi since Nov. 16.

Fallujah, located about 40 miles west of Baghdad, was an insurgent bastion until U.S. forces overran the city in November 2004 in the most intense urban combat of the Iraq war.

Since then, the U.S. military and the Iraqi government have been working to rebuild Fallujah and limit the return of insurgents, many of whom slipped out of the city during the siege and moved into nearby towns and villages outside the security cordon.

Regimental Combat Team 8 is a part of the II Marine Expeditionary Force. In the nearly three years since the war began, 147 Marines from II MEF have died in combat, according to 2nd Marine Division spokesman Lt. Barry Edwards. Regimental Combat Team 8 has been in Iraq since the beginning of February.

U.S. casualties have been increasing in recent weeks at a time of growing discontent within the United States over the Iraq conflict.

American commanders said they have been making gains in the war. On Thursday, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, a coalition operations officer, said suicide bombings declined to 23 in November because of successful military operations in the Euphrates River valley west of the capital.

However, U.S. and Iraqi officials have also predicted an increase in insurgent attacks as the upcoming January parliamentary election approaches. As part of security measures for the vote, Iraq's Interior Ministry has banned all non-Iraqi Arabs from entering the country, officials said Friday.

(KGW reporter Andrea Cantu contributed to this report.)

Houston marine killed in Iraq

WASHINGTON -- A Marine from Texas has died in a vehicle accident in Iraq. (Staff Sergeant William D. Richardson)


04:48 PM CST on Friday, December 2, 2005

Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- A Marine from Texas has died in a vehicle accident in Iraq.

The Defense Department Friday identified the victim as Staff Sergeant William D. Richardson, 30, of Houston.

Richardson died Wednesday of wounds suffered during a non-hostile vehicle accident -- near Al Taqaddum, Iraq.

The Defense Department says the accident is under investigation.

Richardson was assigned to Marine Wing Support Squadron-372, Marine Wing Support Group-37, Third Marine Aircraft Wing at Camp Pendleton, California.

His unit was attached to 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, Two Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) in Iraq.

Bronze star awarded for squelching enemy ambush

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif.(Dec. 2, 2005) -- If it wasn’t for the selfless actions of Staff Sgt. Anthony B. Speich, ten Afghani troops and a Navy corpsman on the forward element of the Special Forces Operational Detachment, Company C., 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group, Combined-Joint Special operations Task Force Afghanistan, may have never been able to return home.

Submitted by:
MCB Camp Pendleton
Story by:
Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Patrick J. Floto
Story Identification #:

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif.(Dec. 2, 2005) -- If it wasn’t for the selfless actions of Staff Sgt. Anthony B. Speich, ten Afghani troops and a Navy corpsman on the forward element of the Special Forces Operational Detachment, Company C., 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group, Combined-Joint Special operations Task Force Afghanistan, may have never been able to return home.

Speich, a 36-year-old from Rapids, Wis., was awarded the Bronze Star with “V” Device during a ceremony here Dec. 2 for his actions in Afghanistan on the day of April 24, 2005.
While leading those 11 men, Speich spotted a team of more than 25 enemy fighters preparing a complex L-shaped ambush position and emplacing improvised explosive devices intended for coalition forces.

The enemy initiated a heavy barrage of direct fire from less than 200 meters away on Speich’s patrol.

“All I was thinking about at that point when rounds and (rocket-propelled grenades) were flying by my head was getting my guys out of dodge,” recalled Speich.
Speich, his corpsman, and the ten Afghani troops, engaged the numerically superior enemy forces without hesitation.

Speich led the attack through personal example, accurately engaging the enemy while repeatedly exposing himself to enemy fire in order to direct members of his element to maneuver out of the danger zone, according to the award citation.

Hoping to overrun and destroy the coalition patrol, the enemy increased their volume of fire and began to maneuver and flank his position, but Speich voluntarily remained in the enemy kill zone in order to engage the enemy with his rifle.

The tide of the fight quickly turned as the enemy position became suppressed under the fire of Speich’s element.

Speich and his element engaged the enemy for 45 minutes, and after the intense firefight, Speich continued to lead the attack by effectively directing mortar fire on the remaining enemy positions, completely silencing the enemy, the citation said.

Hoping for complete destruction of the enemy, Speich then pursued the enemy for an additional four hours, traveling over four kilometers of rugged terrain covered with numerous enemy-fighting positions.

According to the citation, Speich’s actions, professionalism and courage under intense enemy fire, according to the citation, were crucial to the successful execution of a combined, joint and interagency mission deep into an enemy-dominated border region that resulted in the death of five insurgents and the wounding of fifteen others.

The success of this mission significantly degraded the ability of enemy forces to coordinate anti-coalition and anti-government attacks in Bermel Valley, Pakita Province, Afghanistan, the citation said.

In addition to hurting the enemy, Speich’s actions on April 24, 2005 saved the lives of numerous coalition soldiers.

“We would have never made it out there without those Afghani (troops) and my corpsman,” Speich said. “Those Afghanis are great, they’re fearless.”

Troops Should Talk About Afghanistan, Iraq Successes, Pace Says

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2005 – Senior military leaders - as well as rank-and-file servicemembers - should spread the good news about anti-terrorist and reconstruction successes in Iraq, the U.S. military's top officer said during his Dec. 1 address at the National Defense University here.

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2005 – Senior military leaders - as well as rank-and-file servicemembers - should spread the good news about anti-terrorist and reconstruction successes in Iraq, the U.S. military's top officer said during his Dec. 1 address at the National Defense University here.

During a question-and-answer session following his remarks on the president's "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" report, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, listened to an NDU student talk about a gap in perception between the media and the government in regard to how operations in Afghanistan and Iraq are going.

The questioner then asked Pace if he thought the military was providing enough information to the public.

"I think you are correct that we have not - we, guys like me - have not articulated well enough what is happening in Iraq and in Afghanistan," Pace responded.

The chairman said the U.S. military decided in 2004 that the new Iraqi government should take more of a lead role in discussing anti-terrorist operations in their country.

"But as a result of stepping back," Pace said, "I think we may have stepped back a little too far inside our own country with regard to explaining to our own people what we're doing."

Pace said he thinks it's possible for both Iraqi officials and U.S. military leaders -- from generals down to privates -- to tell the public and the media about successes achieved against terrorists in Iraq.

"When they come home, we should be encouraging them inside their local communities to take the opportunity to talk to the local newspapers, to the local chamber of commerce," he said. "If enough of us are making ourselves available to answer questions publicly, then the American people will have a large enough buffet, so to speak, that they can pick and choose, and read and listen, and determine for themselves what's really going on."

The general recalled that news coverage about the Iraq war was around-the-clock from when it began in March 2003 until Saddam Hussein's government fell that April.

"Understandably, we don't have 24/7 coverage anymore," Pace said. "Therefore, the amount of information out there for the general public is less than it used to be."

Today, myriad Iraq success stories exist to tell, yet the media seems to dwell on the bad news, the general said. For example, he pointed out, terrorists are being rounded up along the Iraqi-Syrian border, while the Iraqi military is assuming more and more responsibility in taking on the terrorists. And 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces, Pace said, are relatively peaceful while the remaining four have current terrorist threats and problems.

Servicemembers should answer citizens' questions openly and honestly, Pace said. "Those of us who have the opportunity to put more on the table for more people to look at and turn around and decide for themselves what's right and what's not," he said, "need to take those opportunities."

Bronze Star awardee gears up for eighth deployment

MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii (Dec. 2, 2005) -- Like hail during a thunderstorm, the bullets landed all around the Marine as he simultaneously fired two M-16 service rifles, one in each arm. His own weapon and the weapon of his platoon sergeant, who was busy carrying another wounded Marine on his back to safety, continuously erupted as he methodically emptied magazine after magazine into the insurgent position. (1/3)

Submitted by:
MCB Hawaii
Story by:
Computed Name: Sgt. Joe Lindsay
Story Identification #:

MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii (Dec. 2, 2005) -- Like hail during a thunderstorm, the bullets landed all around the Marine as he simultaneously fired two M-16 service rifles, one in each arm. His own weapon and the weapon of his platoon sergeant, who was busy carrying another wounded Marine on his back to safety, continuously erupted as he methodically emptied magazine after magazine into the insurgent position.

The four Marines were in an open field in Fallujah, Iraq, with no cover. It was later called a miracle that any of them survived, especially considering that two rocket-propelled grenades had also been fired upon them, the shrapnel going every which way but inexplicably missing their flesh.

For his actions that day, and throughout Operation Iraq Freedom II, while serving in an officer’s billet as the platoon commander for 1st Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Staff Sgt. Ralph Scott was awarded the Bronze Star with the “V” device — authorized for acts or service involving direct participation in combat operations.

But that medal only begins to tell the story of Scott, a man with an unyielding sense of duty toward his fellow Marines, according to his platoon sergeant who served with him that fateful day — Sgt. Michael Chambers of Lexington, S.C.

“When Staff Sergeant Scott first came to us in Charlie Company, all he said to us was, ‘My whole entire job — I don’t care if it takes my life — is to bring you all home,’” said Chambers, recalling his initial meeting with Scott. “I’m here to tell you that he stood behind his word.”

Nine of the 14 Marines in Charlie Company’s 1st Squad from 1st Platoon were wounded that day in Fallujah, but all of them survived, and are alive today, either directly or indirectly because of Scott’s leadership and actions, noted Chambers.

“Anybody from that platoon, seeing what he did …” started Chambers, his words drifting off into the contemplative reflection of a man who has seen things others care not to imagine. “My words can’t do him justice,” continued Chambers. “All I can say is you won’t meet another man like him. Every battle we were in, while Marines would naturally and instinctively hit the deck when the first barrage would hit, Staff Sergeant Scott would be there standing, already simultaneously returning fire. We would follow his lead. There’s no finer man, no fiercer warrior that the Marines have ever sent into battle than that man. I would go back to combat with him in a second.”

Chambers may get his chance, as both he and Scott are slated to deploy with 1/3 on its upcoming deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, although Scott, who currently serves as the 1/3 assistant operations chief, is no longer in Charlie Company.

“In my heart, I’m still with Charlie Company,” said Scott, a Tallahassee, Fla., native who joined the Marine Corps at the age of 17, soon after graduating high school. “Whatever job the Marine Corps gives me, I will do it to the best of my ability, but I’d be lying if I said I’d rather be here than back with the grunts.”

The men of Charlie Company said they felt the same way, in particular, the ones who served with Scott in Fallujah.

“Staff Sergeant Scott is one of those Staff NCOs who you can tell cares about his Marines,” said Lance Cpl. William Duffield, a 1/3 rifleman from Ridgway, Pa. “I saw with my own eyes the way he was over in Iraq. It would be hard for me to pick a particular day where he distinguished himself, because he was distinguishing himself every single day, every single battle. It makes me proud to know I served with him.”

“I got hit with 13 pieces of shrapnel from my legs all the way up my back in Iraq,” added Lance Cpl. Christopher Harris, a 1/3 rifleman from Jasper, Texas. “There were other Marines who got shot up worse than me that still lived. Sometimes I feel lucky to be alive. Marines like Staff Sergeant Scott are a big part of the reason we are still here, still breathing. He would never leave another Marine behind. We were like a big family over there. Staff Sergeant Scott knows what it’s like. He was raised in the grunts.”

Indeed, just two years into his first enlistment, Scott found himself in Iraq during the Gulf War in 1991, but he characteristically downplays the numerous accomplishments throughout his Marine Corps career.

“I wake up every morning, and I come to work,” said Scott. “Whether work happens to be behind a desk in Hawaii or on a battlefield in Iraq isn’t really the point. The point is to do your best and give your best effort at all times and in all situations.”

According to Maj. Michael Miller, 1/3 executive officer, Scott’s philosophy is one he respects.
“Nobody goes out and says, ‘Hey, I’m going to get the Navy Cross today or the Bronze Star today,’” said the Boalsburg, Pa., native. “You just stumble into a bad situation, and the only way to make it go away is to prevail over your foe. It is an exceptional person who steps up above and beyond what is considered normal duty — and those types of Marines have prevented some catastrophic events due to their personal actions.”

There is no argument among the Marines in Charlie Company who served with Scott in Iraq that he is one such Marine.

“He (Scott) stepped up to the plate in Iraq,” said Lance Cpl. Justin Deleon, a 1/3 anti-tank assaultman from Marquez, Texas. “He was holding an officer’s billet. He was an underdog, but he stepped up and delivered. Under his leadership, we all formed a bond in Charlie Company that can never be broken.”

“If Staff Sergeant Scott gets a mission, it gets done. Simple as that,” added Lance Cpl. Chris Berggren, a 1/3 rifleman from Lincoln, Neb. “Seeing with my own eyes what he did over in Iraq, it doesn’t surprise me at all he was awarded the Bronze Star for valor. He deserves it.”

As Scott prepares to deploy to Afghanistan, he reflected back to his days in Charlie Company.

“When I look back and think about Fallujah, I don’t think about the things I did,” remarked Scott. “I think about the things the Marines did. One of my squads was pretty much decimated from a casualty perspective, but they still kept fighting. Only by the grace of God, nobody was killed.”

According to Sgt. Maj. Michael Berg, 1/3 sergeant major, men like Scott are a breed apart.

“Most people hear gunfire and they run away from the danger,” said the Plymouth, N.H., native. “Marines don’t have that luxury. Marines run directly into danger, and Marines like Staff Sergeant Scott lead the way.”

Scott, a 1989 graduate of Amos P. Godby High School in Tallahassee, Fla., is currently in the process of writing a book about his experience in Iraq. He also plans on completing his degree in criminal justice from Florida State University before attending law school at FSU after he retires from the Marine Corps.

“I had two dreams as a kid,” said Scott. “The first one was to be a Marine. The second was to graduate from law school. I don’t know if I’ll ever be a practicing attorney, but I want to have the option.”

According to Scott, after retirement, he plans on settling down in Florida. Though he plans on doing some traveling with his wife Ingrid, including a trip to Europe, he said after seven deployments — Afghanistan will be his eighth — that he is ready to stay put for a while.

It was a deployment, however, that led to Scott meeting the woman who would eventually become his wife.

“I was on a goodwill float to South America in 1993 and was on liberty just walking around,” recalled Scott. “It was God’s will that we even met. We struck up a conversation, and after I returned to the U.S. we started corresponding, then dating, and eventually we married. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

For her part, Ingrid, a professional language translator, said she is proud of her husband’s accomplishments, but worries about him just the same.

“Before my husband left for deployment, I had the chaplain bless him,” said the Valparaiso, Chile native. “Having your husband deployed to combat is very stressful. I couldn’t find the words enough to describe the stress you go through; how you become a slave to the news — not knowing who’s dead — waiting endless hours for the knock at the door. It’s something that can really tear you apart.”

Ingrid said her faith in God and the emotional encouragement she has received from the 1/3 key volunteers has been a blessing.

“It helps so much, having the support of the other wives from 1/3,” commented Ingrid. “It makes you know that you’re not alone — that you’re not the only one going through it.”

As Scott gears up for another combat deployment, he speaks with the confidence of a man who knows what he’s headed for.

“I’ve never been to Afghanistan, but I’ve been to war before,” said Scott. “I can tell you 1/3 is ready. I’m ready. The Marines will always be ready. That’s just a fact. Our commanders are the best infantry commanders in the world. They’re ready. They got a game plan. I’m excited — not for the purpose of loss of life, because I know Afghanistan is going to be hazardous — but from the perspective that I know we are ready to accomplish the mission. I feel totally confident.”

Splendora family's 'diamond in the rough' lost

A Splendora family had their Christmas wish turn into a nightmare Friday. (Robert Alexander Martinez)


05:52 PM CST on Friday, December 2, 2005

By Christina Lee / 11 News


A Splendora family had their Christmas wish turn into a nightmare Friday.

They found out early Friday morning that their son, who was a Marine in Iraq, was killed in Fallujuah by a roadside bomb.

Robert Alexander Martinez was 20 years old and proud to serve his country, said his stepfather.

What's even more heartbreaking is that he was expected to come home on Monday.

However, at the last minute his return trip was delayed by a month.

Now Jeremy Hunt mourns the loss of his stepson.

"He was a diamond in the rough for me," said Hunt. "He was one of the greatest things I ever had come into my life. He was a great son, but not only a great son but a great friend to me."

The Marine graduated from Cleveland High School two years ago and was a varsity baseball pitcher.

Everyone remembered him as the boy with the infectious smile.

His parents are still waiting to find out when his body will be shipped home.

It's not known if Martinez was one of 10 Marines killed in Fallujah on Thursday. That attack is the deadliest single attack against American forces in Iraq in nearly four months. Eleven other Marines were hurt.

Giving Bone Marrow for the Holiday Season

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - Servicemembers have the chance to give the gift of life this holiday season by registering with the C.W. Bill Young/Department of Defense Marrow Donor Program during a drive on base Dec. 13 to 15.


Friday, December 02, 2005

By Cpl. Tom Sloan - Camp Pendleton Public Affairs

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - Servicemembers have the chance to give the gift of life this holiday season by registering with the C.W. Bill Young/Department of Defense Marrow Donor Program during a drive on base Dec. 13 to 15.
The Camp Pendleton Bone Marrow Donor Registration Drive will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 13 - 15. The locations of registration are still to be determined.
"We're in a very unique position to make a significant contribution" to people needing life-saving bone marrow transplants, said Lt. Col. Mike Bontell, coordinator of the Camp Pendleton Bone Marrow Donor Campaign.
Bontell met with Marine Corps Community Service advertising officials Friday and discussed ways to bring about awareness of the drive and its importance.
"There are more than 500 people in uniform alone that need bone marrow, and we could help them," he said. "It makes me twinge knowing that I could possibly save a life."
Department of Defense cardholders between the ages of 18 and 60 can register, which is a five-minute process that consists of the registrar doing a mouth swab.
"The process is less evasive," he said. "They don't take blood, and hopefully we can get a large turnout."
Bontell stressed the importance of obtaining multiple registrations during the drive.
"Quantity is key," he said. "Out of 400 registrations, there's a possible match. The more people who come out, the better chance we have to save a life."
Bone marrow transplant medical teams with the C.W. Bill Young/Department of Defense Marrow Donor Program work throughout the U.S. and world to match needy patients with registered donors.
Bontell challenged all servicemembers aboard Camp Pendleton to attend the drive.
"Marines love a challenge, and this is the ultimate challenge to register and possibly be selected to donate," he said. "What better gift to give during the holiday season than to give the gift of life?"

Marine from southern Michigan dies in Iraq

UNION CITY, Mich. - A U.S. Marine and former athlete at Union City High School has been killed in Iraq, school officials said Friday.


Associated Press

UNION CITY, Mich. - A U.S. Marine and former athlete at Union City High School has been killed in Iraq, school officials said Friday.

Craig Watson, who graduated in 2003, died Thursday, Superintendent Martin Chard said. He said a family member told him Watson was killed by what the military calls an improvised explosive device, or IED, a roadside bomb made from several large artillery shells.

It was not immediately clear whether Watson was among the 10 Marines killed Thursday in Fallujah in an IED explosion, which also wounded 11.

Watson played on the football and wrestling teams at Union City. He had twin brothers, Brad and Kevin, who also attended the school.

Although he weighed only about 190 pounds, Watson wrestled in the heavyweight division and often went against opponents 30 to 40 pounds heavier, assistant coach Ed Sybesma said. Sometimes he beat them.

"He had to drink a lot of water so he could make weight," Sybesma said. "He was a team player. He sacrificed for the team and also for his country."

Sybesma, a Vietnam veteran, said he and Watson discussed their combat experiences when Watson returned from an earlier tour of duty in Iraq.

"The enemy we were fighting during the day looked like everybody else and at night they were the ones trying to kill you," Sybesma said. "It's the same thing over there (in Iraq)."

Watson believed in the U.S. mission in Iraq, Sybesma said. "He was anxious to go back. I know he was really proud to be a Marine."

Students at Union City High had planned to send a Christmas care package to Watson, and the sixth-grade class had "adopted" him and was preparing to send letters, Sybesma said.

Eric Tundevole, the head football coach, said Watson was a typical American youth.

"He wasn't perfect. He had faults, but he was a good boy," Tundevole said. "He was sharp, but not the smartest. He was a good player, but not the greatest. But he obviously made the supreme sacrifice."

Teachers in each of the school's classes read a statement Friday morning announcing Watson's death, Tundevole said.

Union City is located about 130 miles west of Detroit.

Stepping out of the Nest

Famillies share stories of first child leaving home for new opportunity



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Debra Grove was prepared for "empty nest crying" when her only child, Christopher, headed out the door for college about three months ago.

She expected life to be dull without her son living at home and that she and her husband, Tim, would be bored silly.

In reality, the Hagerstown family of three is adjusting well to this life phase - when a child leaves home to make his or her own way in the world.

Every fall, a new crop of families experience - for the first time - what it's like to help a child pack their bags and move into the unknown world of college, work, or military experiences. Here are the stories of some Tri-State area families who are making such transitions.

The Kifer-Stoner family

From two girls to one

Ariel Kifer was ready to pick up and move out when she graduated from North Hagerstown High School in June. By August she was headed for Indiana University of Pennsylvania in Indiana, Pa. - a three-hour drive from home.

While the first few weeks of college were filled with changes - adjusting to a new schedule, new living arrangement, new friends and new scholastic expectations - Kifer says its wasn't long before she was fully in the swing of college life.

Back home, Kifer's family was busy making their own adjustments and her father, Joey Kifer, was without his daughter on the weekends.

Kifer's mother, 8-year-old sister and stepfather moved to Greencastle, Pa., earlier this year. With the move, Cierra, Kifer's sister, was also starting fresh at a new school.

And Teresa Stoner, Kifer's mother, was getting used to a new family structure.

"It was very emotional with (Ariel) up and leaving," Stoner says. "She's on her own now. I mean, Mommy still pays the bills," she adds with a laugh.

Stoner quickly realized that her role as a mother was changing with Ariel living her life at a distance.

"I can give her advice but I can't tell her what to do," Stoner says. "You're scared. She's 18, but she's still my baby. What if she gets sick?"

Ariel Kifer says her college transition has been easier knowing that she can come home whenever she wants to. Her sister and family have come to visit her at college and she's been coming home at least once a month.

"I do miss my parents," Kifer says. "It's nice to come home and hang out. But when I'm at home, I miss school."

The Breehl-Custer family

In the Marines now

Jonathan Breehl's adjustment to living away from home was a bit more abrupt. As the oldest of three boys, Breehl was the first to step away from home and directly into boot camp to become a U.S. Marine.

From the start of boot camp on Aug. 1 to the last day of the program, Oct. 28, Breehl was not able to talk to his family once. He could write letters, but e-mail and phones were not available to the young recruit.

Getting through three months without real-time contact with his family was hard on both Breehl and his entire family.

"At first you get very homesick and then you make new friends and kind of learn the routine," Breehl says. "It becomes easier to be away from your family."

Melissa Custer, Breehl's mother, didn't have quite the same reaction.

"It was terrible," she says. "I was so on edge. I didn't know what he was doing."

A very trying moment came when the Custers got a message from Breehl that he was in the hospital with a concussion. They had only limited information about Breehl's condition and no way to contact the hospital or their son.

"You didn't know what it was, you just knew that he fell and hit his head," Custer remembers.

The separation, however, yielded a great return, Breehl says.

On Oct. 28, Breehl became a private first class at Parris Island, S.C. and his entire family was there to witness it.

"It was such an emotional experience," Breehl says of getting through boot camp and seeing his family for the first time as an enlisted member of the Marine Corps. "It was a proud moment in my life."

Custer says when she saw her son for the first time since he left home, she saw a changed person.

"He's matured into such a wonderful young man," she says.

The Grove family

Empty nest

In early October, Tim and Debra Grove got a phone call all parents dread. Their son, Christopher, had an accident on the basketball court and he was in the hospital with a head laceration.

Christopher Grove, 18, a North Hagerstown High School graduate, remembers colliding with his opponent while playing intramural basketball at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. He ended up with a one-inch gash above his right eye.

With the help of some new college friends, Christopher Grove found his way to the hospital and managed his condition as well as navigating insurance cards and dorm curfews.

He says the experience made him feel more "at ease" because it showed him that he could take care of himself.

"I feel like I've really matured a lot and learned not to be so dependent on others," Grove says of his college experience. "I have to make sure I go to bed at a decent time to get ready for classes. I'm the one that has to make sure my homework's done and that I'm taking care of myself."

Debra and Tim Grove's first impulse was to get in the car and drive three and a half hours to take care of their son. But the Groves are adjusting to a new phase of their lives.

What makes the transition easier is knowing that their son is doing well, Debra Grove says.

"For me, to see how happy he is has done my heart good," she says. "This is where he wants to be."

NASCAR drivers see life on Parris Island

A day at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island proved more hazardous to NASCAR Busch Series driver Ashton Lewis Jr. than his high-speed day job.


Published Fri, Dec 2, 2005

A day at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island proved more hazardous to NASCAR Busch Series driver Ashton Lewis Jr. than his high-speed day job.

Lewis, who drives the No. 25 Marine Corps-sponsored Ford car, "stepped funny on a line" while touring Parris Island's confidence course Thursday and was taken to Beaufort Memorial Hospital with an ankle injury, said Louie Louchart, a staff engineer for the team.

"Driving 180 mph, not a problem, but walking 2 mph is difficult," said Regan Smith, who drives the No. 35 McDonald's Big Mac Ford, for which the Marine Corps is an associate sponsor.

The crew for Team Rensi Motorsports, which operates both cars, was on Parris Island to witness its sponsors at work. The team arrived Wednesday and will stay through today, watching recruits run drills and graduate.

"Just observing gives each and every one of us respect for what teamwork requires," said Chris Wright, crew chief for the No. 35 car.

Sponsoring a car that is seen in 35 races annually maximizes exposure for the Marine Corps, said Rob Winchester, a retired Marine who is the spokesman and administrative director for the team.

As a public affairs officer for the Marines in 2001, Winchester said he helped form the partnership with Team Rensi Motorsports. He said the Marine Corps was the first branch of the military to fully fund a car. All branches but the Air Force now are primary sponsors of a NASCAR vehicle, according to the NASCAR Web site.

The Marine Corps spends about $3.5 million a year on the NASCAR team, recruit depot spokesman Maj. Guillermo Canedo said.

Besides providing publicity, team members said some Marines and their relatives find pride in the car.

"It increases morale, and when you increase morale, you increase retention," Winchester said.

He said it was fun to be back on Parris Island, where he went through boot camp in the 1980s, adding that it was important for his team members to understand the Marine Corps a little more.

"It gives them appreciation for what Marines do and what they're doing in Iraq," he said. "They give us freedom" to race.
Contact Lori Yount at 986-5531 or [email protected] To comment:

Operation Shank begins in Ramadi

CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, AR RAMADI, Iraq — Approximately 200 Iraqi Army soldiers from 1st Brigade, 7th Division and 300 Marines from 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, launched Operation Harba (Shank) today in Ar Ramadi.


December 02, 2005
Release A051202a

Operation Shank begins in Ramadi

CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, AR RAMADI, Iraq — Approximately 200 Iraqi Army soldiers from 1st Brigade, 7th Division and 300 Marines from 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, launched Operation Harba (Shank) today in Ar Ramadi.

Operation Shank is the fifth in a series of operations by the Iraqi Army and Coalition Forces conducting combined clearing operations to disrupt the insurgency and set the conditions for a successful Dec. 15 election in the Al Anbar provincial capital of Ar Ramadi.

The purpose of the operation is to disrupt a terrorist group that utilizes an area of Ramadi as its base for attacks on local Ramadi citizens, Iraqi and U.S. military.

Since Nov. 16, Iraqi and U.S. Forces actions resulted in numerous terrorists killed or detained, to include Imad Salih Al-Fahdawi, a known terrorist involved in attacks against government officials and imams; and Khamis Manfi Hammud Al Klaibawi, a truck driver responsible for placing roadside bombs on the streets of Ramadi.

Additionally, Operations Panthers, Bruins, Lions and Tigers were successful in discovering numerous weapons caches, which collectively contained surface- to-air missiles, rocket-propelled grenades, rockets, mortar and artillery rounds, hand grenades, landmines, small arms and ammunition, and bomb-making equipment.

Bomb Kills 10 Marines, Wounds 11 More in Iraq

WASHINGTON (Dec. 2) - Ten Marines were killed and 11 wounded by a roadside bomb near Fallujah, Iraq, in one of the deadliest attacks on American troops in recent months, the Marine Corps announced on Friday. A brief statement said the Marines were from Regimental Combat Team 8, of the 2nd Marine Division.


WASHINGTON (Dec. 2) - Ten Marines were killed and 11 wounded by a roadside bomb near Fallujah, Iraq, in one of the deadliest attacks on American troops in recent months, the Marine Corps announced on Friday. A brief statement said the Marines were from Regimental Combat Team 8, of the 2nd Marine Division.

They were hit Thursday by a roadside bomb, which the military calls an improvised explosive device, made from several large artillery shells, the Marines said.

The Marines were on a foot patrol outside of Fallujah, about 30 miles west of Baghdad. Of the 11 who were wounded, seven have returned to duty, the Marine Corps statement said. It added that Marines from the same unit continue to conduct counterinsurgency operations throughout Fallujah and surrounding areas.

The names of those killed were withheld pending notification of their relatives, in line with usual military practice.

Pentagon officials said they did not immediately have any information beyond was what contained in the Marine Corps statement.

Fallujah had been a stronghold of the insurgents until U.S. forces, led by Marines, assaulted the city in November 2004. Since then the U.S. military and the Iraqi government have been working to rebuild the city and limit the return of insurgents.

12/2/2005 11:33:31

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. All active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.

10 U.S. Marines killed in bombing near Fallujah

11 others wounded in Thursday’s attack in insurgent stronghold

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Ten U.S. Marines conducting a foot patrol outside the Iraqi city of Fallujah were killed by a roadside bombing, the U.S. Marines announced Friday. The attack is one of the deadliest against U.S. troops in Iraq in recent months.



MSNBC News Services
Updated: 11:45 a.m. ET Dec. 2, 2005

In a statement released in Fallujah, the military said another 11 Marines were wounded in Thursday's blast, which was caused by an “improvised explosive device” fashioned from several large artillery shells. Seven of those wounded have been able to return to duty, the military said.

The statement said the Marines were from Regimental Combat Team 8, of the 2nd Marine Division.

It added that Marines from the same unit continue to conduct counterinsurgency operations throughout Fallujah, which is about 30 miles west of Baghdad, and surrounding areas.

The names of those killed were withheld pending notification of their relatives, in line with usual military practice.

Pentagon officials said they did not immediately have any information beyond was what contained in the Marine Corps statement.

Fallujah had been a stronghold of the insurgents until U.S. forces, led by Marines, assaulted the city in November 2004. Since then the U.S. military and the Iraqi government have been working to rebuild the city and limit the return of insurgents.

Shiites, Sunnis in show of unity
News of the attack follows a show of unity from hundreds of Shiite and Sunni Muslims, who prayed together, then staged a joint demonstration in central Baghdad to denounce military and police raids and widespread arrests of suspected insurgents.

Men waved Iraqi flags and women dressed in black robes carried posters of their missing sons. Some protesters held up portraits of Sunni clerics who have been killed since the U.S. invasion in 2003.

Shiites make up the majority in Iraq, but were oppressed by former ruler Saddam Hussein, who is a Sunni. Since Saddam’s overthrow, Shiites have controlled most of the political power in Iraq, while the anti-U.S. insurgency has been dominated by Sunnis.

Sunni suicide bombers have targeted Shiite mosques and gatherings.

And Sunni leaders have complained of attacks by Shiite death squads tied to the government. Last month, U.S. troops discovered an interior ministry jail with 173 detainees, some showing signs of torture.

The ministry is “killing our sons at the orders of the (Iranians),” one poster read, referring to alleged ties between Interior Minister Bayn Jabr and Iran. Another poster referred to Jabr as an American agent.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

© 2005 MSNBC.com

Called to duty in Iraq

• Local Marine reservists: Bravo Battery to report at McDonough St. base


By Charles B. Pelkie
Staff Writer

JOLIET — Some 150 local U.S. Marines Corps reservists have been called to active duty and will ship out early next year to western Iraq, where they will serve as provisional military police.

Marines and sailors of Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, reported for duty Thursday at the McDonough Street base on Joliet's West Side.

Bravo Battery will report for duty daily in Joliet through December and will transfer to Camp Pendleton in California sometime in January.

In March, the Marines will ship out to Iraq, where they will serve as a provisional military police battalion whose goal is to bring security and stability to the region.

Bravo Battery is made up of reservists from throughout northern Illinois as well as Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. In the past 18 months, they have shifted the focus of their training from artillery to military police and security service skills.

Bravo Battery will assist convoys and serve at vehicle checkpoints, said 1st Sgt. Bob Campbell. The reservists' mission also requires them to spot improvised explosive devices that insurgents have used to blow up military vehicles as well as civilian targets.

"They've been trained to focus on the terrain and notice anything out of the ordinary," Campbell said.

Bravo Battery also will assist Iraqi police as the civilian force moves toward taking over complete responsibility for security in the country.

Campbell said reservists already have received urban warfare training in vacant cities set up at Camp Pendleton. In addition, they have taken courses in language, customs and weapons to help them when they hit the ground in Iraq.

Bravo Battery's summer training was increased from 15 to 21 days to prepare for the mission. Training will continue here in Joliet and then in southern California until the battery ships out in March.

Reservists will be mobilized for one year, but could remain on active duty for an additional year if necessary.

This will be the first activation for Bravo Battery since the beginning of the war on terrorism. In 1990, 1st Battalion, 14th Marines, were deployed in Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War.

Campbell said Bravo Battery reservists are ready for deployment.

"Morale seems to be fairly high," he said. "The reservists are looking forward to completing the mission we've been assigned."

Reporter Charles B. Pelkie may be reached at (815) 729-6039 or via e-mail at [email protected]

Finding hidden caches can be an art form

AL AMIRIYAH, Iraq -- U.S. soldiers steeled themselves to the hot desert wind that stung their eyes, parched their throats and added grit to their sweat-drenched bodies. (2nd AAB)



AL AMIRIYAH, Iraq -- U.S. soldiers steeled themselves to the hot desert wind that stung their eyes, parched their throats and added grit to their sweat-drenched bodies.

They meticulously picked through mounds of dirt, trash and rubble as a couple dozen U.S. Marines and their armored assault vehicles stood by, alert and prepared for potential terrorist activity.

Army combat engineers from task force Iron Hawk, and infantry assault Marines from 2nd Platoon, Company B, 2nd Amphibian Assault Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, worked as a team to find and rid the arid Iraqi countryside around Fallujah of enemy weapons caches.

"We are doing a check, sweeping for weapons, ammunition, artillery rounds ... any insurgent weapon we can find," said Army Staff Sgt. Mathew Thornton, squad leader with Company C, 224th Engineer Battalion, Iowa National Guard.

Finding hidden caches can be an art form. The soldiers use the AN-19/2 mine detector, hunches, experience and back-breaking digging. If the detector emits a beep, metal is nearby. Soldiers dig until they find something or until they feel it is time to move on.

After a detector let off a squeal, Spc. Aaron Bixler from Company C grabbed his shovel and began digging.

"I'm running the shovel," Bixler said.

Thornton and several soldiers watched in anticipation. Large-caliber ammunition spilled out of the dirt.

"Great. Now let's look for the pay dirt," Thornton said.

While the soldiers continued to search for cleverly hidden ammunition, weapons or other destructive terrorist items, the Marine infantrymen fanned out and searched local farm buildings and livestock pens.

Keeping a watchful eye on the male members of an Iraqi family was the responsibility of 2nd Platoon Cpl. Manual Cuevas. He also served as a sentry and Arabic interpreter.

"We are trackers, infantry and combat engineers," Cuevas said. "It's a little hard to do it all."

Cuevas attended a one-month training course on Arabic cultures, customs and language.

"I practice, have to keep on speaking to (Iraqi) people to understand it," he said.

Exhausted, dirty and frustrated, the soldiers and Marines didn't find much, just a handful of rusty and corroded machine gun rounds and some dingy combat gear.

Task Force Iron Hawk may not have had much success that day, but the combined Army and Marine task force is credited with finding an estimated 70 tons of ordinance, said . . nce, said Capt. James Higginbotham of 224th Engineer Battalion.

Ending the search, the soldiers and Marines of Task Force Iron Hawk returned to their vehicles. Their work was not yet done; they had another dusty farm to search and, possibly, a weapons cache to find.

Albany remembers Marine killed in Iraq

ALBANY (AP) — A U.S. Marine who was fatally shot in the head while on patrol in Iraq was remembered in this working-class community for his blazing fastball, his sense of humor and his devotion to family.


ALBANY (AP) — A U.S. Marine who was fatally shot in the head while on patrol in Iraq was remembered in this working-class community for his blazing fastball, his sense of humor and his devotion to family.

More than 300 people gathered at the Linn County Expo Center on Wednesday to say goodbye to Lance Cpl. Tyler Troyer, 21, of Tangent, who died on Nov. 19.

The crowd wore buttons with a picture of Troyer, who was a star left-hander for the West Albany High School baseball team before joining the Marines.

More than a dozen family members and friends told stories of the mischievous boy who sometimes got into trouble as a youngster. They also praised him as being the glue that connected a family split by divorce.

“Tyler was an example of a person with a destiny in his life,” Galen Troyer, the Marine’s uncle, said from a stage adorned with hundreds of flowers. “He had goals and knew what he wanted to do. Tyler cared about people, and he made a difference.”

Troyer’s father, David Troyer, remembered the day when his son told him he needed his signature so he could sign up for the Marines because he wasn’t yet 18.

“I was a bit nervous,” David Troyer recalled. “But I could see it in his eyes that this was something he really wanted to do. I saw a real change in him.”

Photographs of Troyer sat on easels in the hallway and auditorium of the Expo Center. On one, the young man was pictured with the woman he planned to marry, Megan Oswald.

A newspaper announcement of their engagement was centered at the top of the frame. Below were photos of the pair embracing in front of the White House and sitting beneath a freshly decorated Christmas tree in their apartment. Another easel showed photos of Troyer’s military life and his stint in Iraq. He played soccer with young Iraqis and joined in group pictures with his fellow Marines.

Terri Thorpe, Troyer’s mother, was last to speak. She talked about her the fears she had with a son at war and she remembered the 21 years she had with him.

“He will always continue to be in our hearts,” she said. “I ask that you cry with this family and have sorrow for this family.

“But I also ask that you remember that we have guys left in Iraq still,” and they need support, she said.


Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com

Injured USC graduate returns home for holidays

Marine sustained injuries to right side of body during war in Iraq (3/1)

By: Jess Davis
Staff Writer
Issue date: 12/2/05 Section: News

The holidays will be bittersweet this year for a USC graduate injured while serving in the war in Iraq.

Marine 2nd Lt. Michael Geiger suffered extensive injuries to the right side of his body after the Humvee he was riding in struck a land mine Nov. 7. After several operations at hospitals in Iraq and Germany, Geiger returned to Camp Pendleton, a U.S. Marine Corps base in California. There he was reunited with his fiancée, who works as a nurse at Camp Pendleton, and was able to spend Thanksgiving with his family.

"It's nice to be home and not deployed, but my whole platoon is over there," Geiger said. Geiger served as platoon leader for a heavy weapons platoon in the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. "It's hard to be here and not be able to help them, although I wouldn't be much of a help to them with a broken foot."

Not only did the impact from the land mine explosion break several bones in his right foot, it shattered his toes, broke his fibula, splintered a bone in his thumb and thrust shrapnel into Geiger's face, which he modestly brushes off as "just a superficial thing." Geiger counts himself lucky despite his injuries, citing the heavy armor on the Humvee with preventing him from losing a limb or his life. Two other soldiers were in the vehicle with him - one suffered a concussion and the other had no injuries.

Though he was knocked unconscious by the blast, Geiger recalls coming to when two Marines asked if he was OK and pulled him out of the vehicle. His first thought: Was anyone else hurt? After being reassured that no one else was injured and that they hadn't been ambushed, Geiger slipped into a morphine-induced haze. He didn't know the extent of his injuries at the time, just that "something was wrong," he said.

Geiger, who graduated in 2004 with a bachelor's degree in political science, said that before his deployment to Iraq he hadn't considered the possibility of getting injured.

"You never expect to get hit going over there," he said. "You never expect you're the one who'll get hit, but you know it's out there. You train for it and mentally prepare yourself, but I was knocked out cold and totally taken by surprise by the whole situation."

Geiger has been training for the military for many years, first at a military high school in Virginia, then as a Marine ROTC student at USC. He met his fiancée, a 2004 USC graduate and member of the Navy ROTC, when the two groups trained together. He represents the third generation of his family to have served in the military.

"We're very proud of him and we know God was looking out for him when this happened," his sister Elaine Geiger said. His father, Dr. Michael Geiger, shares Elaine's pride and said he is "thankful that it wasn't any worse than it is."

"There are plenty of soldiers injured a lot worse than he was that week and some of them died so we're thankful," he said.

For now, the younger Michael Geiger does administrative work for his platoon while waiting for his foot to heal. He said he is following the advice of his doctors for the fastest recovery possible so that he can return to full active duty, but another force motivates him as well: He wants to dance at his wedding.

"The one thing I asked all the doctors was if I could dance by May 20," he said. "They are all very positive about me making a full recovery."

LI Reservists Heading To Iraq... Again

(CBS) GARDEN CITY U.S Marine Reservists on Long Island are preparing to leave their homes this weekend, and ultimately end up in Iraq. (3/25)


John Slattery

(CBS) GARDEN CITY U.S Marine Reservists on Long Island are preparing to leave their homes this weekend, and ultimately end up in Iraq.

Some 300 Members of 2nd Batallion, 25th Marines in Garden City, have been packing up in preparation for "family day" on Saturday, when they will say good-by to their loved ones, and ship out. One of them is Captain Michael Froeder a Marine Reservist who has been activated for service in the regular Marine Corps.

He told CBS2 News, "There's always concerns. You're a Marine. Anything can happen."

On Friday in Fallujah, Iraq, it was a lethal combination for other Marines, who were pounding suspected insurgent positions in Ramadi. There was a powerful road-side bomb, and Marines on foot were hit. 10 of them killed, 11 more wounded.

The Marines were from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina,

The danger of such unexpected attacks has to be of concern to the Long Island Marine reservists who are being activated for Iraq duty themselves. Corporal Devon Thomas, of Breooklyn, who has already been on two tours to Iraq, dismissed the danger, saying, "The danger is there. We are Marines and we are trained to do the job."

Some of the Marines have been deployed before. Some, like Lance Corporal Roycott Myers, are going for the first time.
"I'm not really nervous. I'm not nervous. I'm going with people who have been there before."

Corporal Brian Seuffert said, "You just have to keep your eye on the ball; keep looking forward."

The Marines will be shipped out, first, to Massachusettes, then to Califoria for at least two months of specialized combat training. Then, they could be in Iraq by March.

Corporal Azril Peskowitz, from Kew Gardens Hills, Queens, who volunteered from the duty, was ready to go, saying,
"As far as I can tell, the level of danger is exagerated in the media."

(© MMV, CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Bush Salutes Troops During Tree Lighting

President Bush remembered America's deployed servicemembers who he said are "serving the cause of peace" during the Dec. 1 Christmas Pageant of Peace and lighting of the national Christmas tree here.

by Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service

President Bush remembered America's deployed servicemembers who he said are "serving the cause of peace" during the Dec. 1 Christmas Pageant of Peace and lighting of the national Christmas tree here.

"We ask for God to watch over our men and women in uniform who are serving overseas," Bush said during the ceremony on the Ellipse. "Their families miss them, hold a seat open for them and pray for their safe return."

America's men and women stand for freedom and serve the cause of peace, he said.

"Many of them are serving in distant lands tonight, but they are close to our hearts," he said.

"As we approach Christmas in this time of war, we pray for freedom and justice and peace on earth," the president said.

Bush recalled President Franklin Roosevelt's address to the nation during Christmas Eve in 1941, weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the United States' entry into World War II.

"Against enemies who preach the principles of hate and practice them, we set our faith in human love and in God's care for us and all men everywhere," Bush said, quoting Roosevelt.

Following his statement, the president and first lady flicked a switch, illuminating the 40-foot Colorado blue spruce that stands just south of the White House.

It will remain in place and open for public visits through the holiday season.

D.I. Janes: Regiment takes wives through boot camp

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Dec. 2, 2005) -- Marine wives and loved ones of the depot's Recruit Training Regiment participated in Jane Wayne Day 2005, a day-long, toned-down run-through of recruit training Nov. 20.


Submitted by: MCRD San Diego
Story Identification #: 2005122142131
Story by Lance Cpl. Kaitlyn M. Scarboro

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Dec. 2, 2005) -- Marine wives and loved ones of the depot's Recruit Training Regiment participated in Jane Wayne Day 2005, a day-long, toned-down run-through of recruit training Nov. 20.

The event helps families see what their Marines do on a daily basis, according to Col. Robert O. Sinclair, RTR commanding officer.

"I think it just helps out the family readiness; it just helps out their relationships," said Sinclair.

The ladies learned drill and participated in a drill evaluation, and they were briefed on Marine Corps martial arts belt levels.

The fun began with an initial recruit brief in Martini Hall. Barking orders, drill instructors ushered the ladies into a room. One wife complained that her husband got some errant spit in her face when he was yelling at her.

The smiling wives found the hotheaded spectacle amusing, as many laughed and lost their bearing. When a pregnant Eva Blenis left the room without asking permission, drill instructors questioned her the way they would question a recruit.

"Oh, so we think we are special," they called to her as she made her way to the rest room.

"I'm on light duty," she retorted, explaining her reason for leaving.

This was the first time Blenis has participated in Jane Wayne Day, and she hadn't expecting nearly as much excitement from the day's events.

"I didn't realize I waddled so much," Blenis said later of her drill abilities, "and these pants don't help." She laughed as she recalled her husband informing her the night before that she could purchase military-issued maternity trousers.

She commented that she was angry with him for not telling her earlier when she could buy them in time for the event.

The wives marched to empty barracks where they met a senior drill instructor, and afterward, they watched a recruit final-drill evaluation.

Unlike in previous years, the ladies could not run the obstacle courses for safety reasons, but they were allowed to run around some courses where Marines from the Instructional Training Company gave demonstrations.

The ladies learned pivoting and column movements, and later, drill instructors rushed them through the food lines at the recruit mess hall.

The youngest Jane Wayne, Samantha Rosales, 12, commented that the mess hall was like her school cafeteria but stricter.

Many drill instructors sat with their loved ones during a lunch break before the ladies were rushed away for more training.

When asked about leaving his wife with a bunch of drill instructors, Staff Sgt. Craig M. Blenis smiled, "Hopefully she won't come back so belligerent. She doesn't listen at home."

After a little more drill practice, the ladies finished Jane Wayne Day with a drill competition between groups representing each of the regiment's battalions - 1st Bn., 2nd Bn., 3rd Bn., and Support Bn. Drill instructors ultimately declared all the ladies winners.

MCRD San Diego's newest Marines graduate Dec. 2

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Dec. 2, 2005) -- These are America's newest Marines and their leaders at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. Company I graduates 550 men today:


Submitted by: MCRD San Diego
Story Identification #: 200512214739
Story by - MCRD San Diego, Public Affairs

Third Recruit Training Battalion
Commanding Officer
Lt. Col. R. W. Gates
Lt. F. P. Munoz
Sergeant Major
Sgt. Maj. S. B. Mearkle
Battalion Drill Master
Gunnery Sgt. I. T. Ramirez

Company I
Commanding Officer
Capt. B. W. McBrayer
Company First Sergeant
1st Sgt. R. A. Young
Company Corpsman
Seaman L. Leyba

Series 3129
Series Commander
Capt. O. E. Rodriguez
Series Gunnery Sergeant
Gunnery Sgt. J. Hoover

Platoon 3129
Senior Drill Instructor
Gunnery Sgt. H. W. Franco
Drill Instructors
Staff Sgt. B. G. Cyphers
Sgt. P. Ruiz
Sgt. W. P. Dvorak

Pfc. D. W. Allen
Pvt. R. I. Alvisu
Pvt. D. F. Arce
Pvt. P. A. Arellano
Pfc. L. C. Bailey
Pfc. J. R. W. Barnett
Pfc. N. H. Bastiaans
Pvt. L. A. Bedford
Pfc. J. M. Best
Pfc. T. L. Branch
Pfc. K. J. Brown
Pvt. T. W. Brown
Pvt. E. S. Bryan
Pfc. B. A. Burns
Pvt. J. P. Burns
Pvt. N. O. Calderon
Pvt. J. P. Campbell
Pvt. D. L. Carpenter
Pvt. J. B. Carver
Pvt. L. R. Casas
Pvt. M. D. Castillo
Pvt. B. L. Caviness
Pvt. J. A. Chavez
Pfc. R. S. Chiprez
Pvt. A. J. Chung
Pfc. C. L. Coker
Pvt. J. L. Connars
Pfc. R. C. Cox
Pvt. A. R. Custance
Pvt. M. C. Custer
Pfc. J. A. Depaz
Pvt. C. D. Dieffenbacher
Pvt. B. E. Drake
Pvt. J. C. Eads
Pvt. J. Estupinan
Pfc. B. K. Fredenberg
Pvt. A. J. Gallardo
Pfc. A. D. Galloway
Pfc. O. Garcia
Pvt. J. T. George
Pvt. J. A. Glenn
Pfc. C. A. Gonzalez
Pfc. R. A. Gonzales
*Pfc. J. M. Gualitz
Pfc. J. A. Hamby
Pfc. T. G. Hamby
Pvt. J. B. Harris
Pvt. C. S. Henderson
Pvt. D. Herzog
*Pfc. J. C. Hill
*Pfc. J. E. Hood
*Pfc. J. M. Hulsey
Pvt. D. C. Jaramillo
Pvt. W. C. Jarman
Pfc. L. B. Jaymes
Pfc. M. R. Johnson
Pvt. J. A. Jones
Pvt. J. M. Jones
Pvt. N. A. Karam
Pvt. D. R. Kessler
Pvt. L. E. Lagud
Pfc. J. E. Lane
Pvt. J. M. Lansdale
Pvt. M. S. Lessly
Pfc. P. A. Lopez
Pvt. T. R. Lott
Pvt. M. R. Luna
Pvt. S. D. Madison
Pvt. R. C. Martin
*Pfc. M. D. McCann
Pfc. J. S. McGlaughlin
Pfc. T. J. Meier
Pvt. A. J. Merrill
Pvt. M. F. Miller
Pvt. S. J. Mitchell
Pvt. E. V. Montanez
Pvt. M. M. Rollings
Pvt. A. T. Sorden
*Lance Cpl. A. H. Tenorio

Platoon 3130
Senior Drill Instructor
Staff Sgt. A. K. Freeman
Drill Instructors
Staff Sgt. A. Walker
Staff Sgt. V. M. Moyado
Staff Sgt. C. N. Lopez

Pvt. N. G. Alexie
Pvt. T. M. Andrews
Pvt. M. A. Baker
Pvt. C. K. Barnett
Pvt. M. R. Blakeney
*Pfc. J. M. Blanche
Pvt. N. J. Bowling
Pvt. A. J. Brandl
Pvt. R. J. Braun
Pvt. M. W. Byars
Pvt. A. C. Cannon
Pvt. R. P. Cashion
Pfc. M. J. Crouch
Pvt. D. T. Currey
Pvt. B. D. Cuspard
Pfc. C. D. Dempsey
Pfc. D. D. Dolton
Pvt. A. J. Durham
Pvt. B. A. England
Pfc. E. Estrada
Pvt. J. E. Finnegan
Pfc. J. A. Fisher
Pvt. L. A. Fowler
Pvt. M. A. Funes
Pfc. R. Garcia
Pvt. J. S. Gniadek
Pfc. R. S. Hamilton
*Pfc. D. L. Handshoe
Pfc. T. Hernandez Jr.
Pvt. C. Huesca
Pvt. D. J. Hughes Jr.
Pfc. W. L. Irwin
*Pfc. Z. S. Jenner
Pfc. C. M. Johnson
Pvt. M. Johnson
Pvt. A. Y. Kay
Pvt. J. W. Keehne
Pvt. S. P. Ketcham
Pvt. K. A. Koons
Pvt. K. M. Krugjohn
Pvt. T. A. Kurtz
Pvt. B. J. Lay
Pvt. B. D. Leavell
Pvt. S. S. Lee
Pvt. J. A. Leonhard
Pvt. R. L. Leslie
Pvt. T. J. Lopez
Pvt. B. D. Luedtke
Pvt. J. H. Macias
Pfc. W. C. Marvin
Pvt. G. K. Mayer
Pvt. R. L. Maynard
Pvt. D. J. McDonald
Pvt. N. D. McKay
Pvt. T. J. Mellos
Pfc. L. J. Michelson
Pvt. S. T. Morgan
Pvt. S. T. Mulligan
Pvt. B. M. Minick
Pfc. D. T. Nagy
*Pfc. J. A. Navarro
Pvt. M. A. Newman
Pvt. J. P. Papp
Pvt. D. T. Parham
Pvt. B. A. Parker
Pvt. J. T. Parnell
Pvt. K. R. Pearson
Pvt. D. A. Perttunen
Pvt. E. N. Pleitez
Pfc. J. G. Sodachanh
Pvt. R. C. Stephens
Pvt. J. D. Stukenberg
*Pfc. D. X. Torres
Pfc. E. Velasquez
Pvt. D. R. Ward
Pfc. D. W. Wright

Platoon 3131
Senior Drill Instructor
Staff Sgt. P. Veracruz
Drill Instructors
Staff Sgt. R. V. Hall
Staff Sgt. M. L. Hamilton
Sgt. M. D. Reese

Pvt. S. C. Allen
Pvt. T. W. Anderson
Pvt. C. W. Baker
Pvt. J. R. Baker
Pvt. K. D. Ballard
Pvt. T. C. Banks
Pfc. S. J. Barker
Pvt. C. B. Bendall
*Pfc. M. N. Berg
Pvt. O. J. Bermudez
Pvt. J. J Blackburn
Pvt. T. F. Bodey
Pvt. R. R. Brown
Pvt. C. L. Buckmaster
Pfc. D. D. Bush
Pvt. J. R. Carlson
Pvt. M. R. Carmichael
Pvt. O. Cervantes
Pvt. R. G. Chambers
Pvt. R. Chavira
Pvt. A. C. Chen
Pvt. J. P. Cheney
Pfc. R. J. Clough
Pvt. M. A. Colman
Pvt. M. N. Cope
Pvt. S. C. Creen
Pfc. J. L. Deleon
*Pfc. U. Delunafelix
Pvt. A. S. Estudillo
Pvt. G. A. Ferry
Pfc. J. M. Firth
Pvt. A. L. Flathers
Pvt. M. R. Flores
Pvt. E. M. Floyd
Pvt. J. L. Fyffe
*Pfc. J. P. Garcia
Pvt. J. L. Godina
Pvt. M. J. Goldberg
Pfc. S. D. Gomezcoria
Pvt. S. I. Gonzalez
Pvt. N. E. Granadinozavaleta
Pvt. M. D. Grauman
Pvt. K. A. Haider
Pfc. S. R. Hailey
Pvt. T. A. Hanyzewski
Pvt. J. M. Harbin
Pvt. B. P. Harty
Pvt. B. C. Hubbard
Pvt. J. M. Hughes
Pvt. M. P. Ingram
Pfc. M. W. Jackson
Pvt. S. A. Jensen
Pvt. D. Jimenez
Pvt. R. A. Jimenez
Pfc. J. N. Johnson
Pvt. S. J. Johnson
Pvt. B. G. Jones
Pvt. J. Kaing
Pvt. K. L. Kaminski
Pvt. J. A. Kaplon
Pvt. D. M. Kell
Pfc. A. M. Koahou
Pvt. B. A. Krueger
*Pfc. M. R. Lembke
Pvt. R. Lemus
Pvt. A. A. Ley
Pvt. A. S. Lyons
Pvt. R. Maldonadolopez
Pvt. J. A. Manning
Pvt. J. D. Marcum
Pvt. J. J. Marugg
Pvt. T. G. Middleton
Pvt. A. E. Mondragon
*Pfc. X. Pha
Pvt. C. B. Pharr
Pfc. B. L. Schultz
Pvt. P. M. Scott
Pfc. K. O. Tellessen
Pvt. K. M. Tidwell
Pfc. M. L. Vanens
Pvt. P. R. Villanueva
Pvt. S. A Ward
Pvt. A. S. Wilson
Pvt. B. E. Yazzie
Pvt. S. A. Ward

Platoon 3132
Senior Drill Instructor
Sgt. E. A. Good
Drill Instructors
Sgt. C. J. Anderson
Sgt. E. J. Madriz
Sgt. J. M. Zeise

Pfc. J. K. Bobgan
*Pfc. D. T. Deibler
Pvt. S. A. Diedrich
Pvt. B. M. Fillmore
Pvt. M. D. Fry
Pfc. B. D. Gilbert
Pvt. J. A. Gillit
Pvt. A. O. Gonzalez
Pvt. R. D. Gooch
Pvt. B. L. Griswold
Pvt. W. W. Hall
Pfc. A. J. Harper
Pvt. R. C. Hickok
Pvt. J. R. Hillman
*Pfc. G. R. Howlett
Pvt. J. D. Hubbard
Pvt. K. E. Jackson
Pvt. R. A. Jones
Pvt. W. S. Jumbeck-Muñoz
Pvt. S. R. Leal
Pvt. P. M. Lilley
Pvt. T. R. Lindsay
Pvt. J. W. Lovelady
Pfc. G. M. Luebbert
Pfc. S. F. Malone
Pvt. B. J. Madsen
Pvt. G. M. McCloskey
Pvt. F. Nieto
Pvt. P. M. Pattberg
Pvt. T. D. Perkowski
Pvt. D. L. Radke
Pfc. W. J. Rovang
*Pfc. F. Ruiz
Pvt. K. M. Ryan
Pvt. J. F. Sandoval
Pvt. N. L. Schuh
Pvt. S. B. Sequeira
Pvt. M. C. Shears
Pvt. M. F. Sheldon
Pfc. M. C. Sikes
Pvt. A. R. Sinclair
Pvt. K. A. Skalsky
Pvt. A. M. Skelton
Pvt. K. M. Sorensen
*Pfc. M. Soto
Pfc. B. J. Stanzil
Pvt. J. L. Steele
Pvt. N. J. Thomas
Pfc. T. J. Thornton
Pvt. L. Torres
Pvt. S. R. Trevallee
Pvt. E. J. Trinklein
Pvt. M. P. Trujillo
Pvt. J. D. Tutwiler
Pvt. E. J. Urena
Pvt. N. R. Valentine
Pvt. B. J. Valenzuela
Pvt. S. T. Vercauteren
Pvt. H. Villanueva
Pvt. F. D. Villalobos
Pvt. J. A. Villalobossilva
Pvt. J. L. Waldner
Pfc. M. J. Ward
Pfc. J. T. Warmoth
Pvt. A. G. Watts
Pvt. G. W. Westenbarger
Pvt. S. P. Weyrauch
Pvt. K. A. White
Pvt. S. J. Wilcox
Pvt. T. J. Wills
*Pfc. R. L. Wilson
Pvt. S. D. Wirsing
Pvt. B. A. Woiewucki
Pvt. I. J. Wood
Pfc. A. J. Ytuarte
Pfc. D. M. Zastrow
Pvt. C. E. Zayas

Platoon 3133
Senior Drill Instructor
Staff Sgt. J. E. Haraway
Drill Instructors
Staff Sgt. M. Fuller
Staff Sgt. D. Holland

*Pfc. P. J. Albert
Pvt. J. J. Allen
Pvt. S. L. Allred.
Pvt. A. Almaguer
Pvt. C. L. Barker
Pvt. A. T. Barth
Pvt. B. E. Baze
Pvt. J. D. Bibbs,
Pvt. D. V. Blakely
Pvt. C. P. Cannon
Pvt. L. D. Castillo
Pvt. P. J. Castro
Pvt. M. Cisneros
Pfc. J. S. Childs
*Pfc. B. A. Clark
*Pfc. Z. A Collins
Pvt. I. G. Contreras
Pfc. M. J. Corpuz
Pfc. S. J. Curlee
Pfc. J. D. Daniels
Pvt. C. L. Darnell
Pvt. C. R. Davis-Burton
Pfc. D. A. Eleidjian
Pfc. W. E. Fent
Pfc. C. C. Foxworth
Pvt. J. A. Franks
*Pfc. T. R. Fredrick
Pvt. B. M. Gabriel
Pvt. A. A. Garciapenaloza
Pfc. C. N. Geizer
Pvt. C. R. Guzman
Pvt. R. Harkess
Pvt. C. H. Heard
Pfc. R. Hernandez
Pvt. S. N. Hunkins
Pfc. T. R. Jackson
Pvt. J. D. Jennings
Pfc. M. E. Jessup
Pvt. M. R. Johnson
Pvt. J. A. Kircher
Pvt. K. J. Koski
Pfc. M. D. Kwiatkowski
Pfc. T. J. Lednetter
Pvt. J. C. Lee
Pvt. R. M. Linker
Pvt. C. P. Macapagal
Pvt. L. J. Martin
Pfc. A. B. McGinnis
Pvt. M. J. Miles
Pvt. J. M. Miller
Pvt. Z. G. Mongeon
Pvt. R. L. Morgan
Pfc. M. B. Moss
Pfc. R. R Nez
Pvt. G. T. Nguyen
Pvt. E. J. Naponen
Pvt. J. Ocampo
Pfc. J. S. Park
*Pfc. J. S. Parker
Pvt. A. W. Pesola
Pvt. A. W. Prats
Pfc. D. S. Price
Pvt. M. F. Prieve
Pvt. A. M. Rodriguez
Pvt. S. D. Rodriguearameriz
Pvt. M. A. Rojas
Pvt. D. L. Rulo
Pvt. F. A. Sacca
Pvt. B. Sanabria
Pvt. S. J. Schrioepfer
Pvt. K. R . Shirleson
Pvt. J. R. Silvers
Pvt. M. A. Small
Pfc. A. R. Smith
Pvt. Z. B. Smith
Pvt. S. W. Soards

Platoon 3134
Senior Drill Instructor
Sgt. A. I. Salazar
Drill Instructors
Sgt. M. J. McManus
Sgt. C. W. Tyler
Sgt. D. L. Peterson

Pvt. C. K. Barnes
Pfc. J. R. Chaco
*Pfc. M. K. Clarke
Pfc. G. D. Conley
Pvt. S. M. Devrieze
Pvt. D. M. Durazo
Pfc. K. M. Fisher
Pvt. B. J. Ganshorn
Pvt. B. A. Guertin
Pvt. C. T. Hamilton
*Pfc. J. T. Hayes
Pvt. D. L. Hayhurst
Pfc. A. I Hensley
Pvt. P. J. Hinson
Pvt. T. D. Hinz
Pfc. J. P. Hodges
Pfc. R. D. Jones
Pvt. C. E. Lagunas
Pfc. J. T. Long
Pvt. H. Magana
Pfc. J. C. McDaniel
Pvt. J. A. McDonell
Pvt. K. J. Mead
*Pfc. D. P. Meilbeck
Pvt. R. P. Miranda
Pvt. F. Monarrez
Pvt. E. D. Morris
Pvt. A. Muick
Pvt. C. T. Neunreiter
Pvt. T. A. Oelke
Pvt. F. Palacios
Pvt. V. A. Perry
Pvt. J. W. Peters
Pvt. K. Y. Petersen
Pfc. B. J. Philipps
Pfc. Q. T. Pitts
Pfc. D. L. Pollard
Pfc. S. E. Rant
Pfc. B. D. Reasner
Pvt. R. M. Risk
Pvt. A. Rocha
Pvt. N. A. Rosencrans
Pvt. D. J. Rubio
Pfc. J. E. Russell
*Pfc. C. A. Sardinta
Pvt. K. A. Simon
Pvt. R. W. Skidmore
*Pfc. D. L. Smith
Pvt. B. C. Snow
Pfc. J. D. Stanley
Pvt. T. M. Steele
Pfc. J. M. Stewart
Pfc. J. E. St. Germain
Pfc. Z. L. Strobridge
Pvt. N. J. Strong
Pvt. J. A. Swedin
Pvt. J. A. Szopinski
Pvt. M. K. Tapuai
Pvt. J. A. Tate
Pfc. R. A. Ten Fingers
Pvt. Z. A. Testa
Pvt. A. D. Thompson
Pvt. M. E. Thompson
Pvt. S. W. Tonkin
Pvt. J. R. Torrez
Pfc. D. A. Towner
Pvt. C. J. Trujillo
Pvt. M. E. Turnbeaugh
*Pfc. S. L. Vazquez
Pvt. R. J. Vincent
Pfc. T. L. Wagley
Pvt. M. S. Walker
Pvt. W. D. Wells
Pvt. B. A. Wilkerson
Pvt. R. A. Williams
Pvt. J. H. Woolery
Pvt. M. A. Wyatt
Pvt. J. F. Zuniga

Platoon 3135
Senior Drill Instructor
Sgt. C. N. Williams
Drill Instructors
Sgt. J. S. Saltzman
Sgt. M. A. Hernandez
Sgt. R. D. Banda

Pvt. A. A Alvarez
Pvt. J. D. Barker
Pvt. M. W. Bautista
Pvt. T. J. Brizca
Pvt. D. E. Butt
Pvt. J. M. Cookson
Pvt. B. A. Deines
*Pfc. G. I. Gonzales
Pvt. J. Guevara
Pfc. J. A. Johnson
Pvt. J. D. Kelsheimer
Pvt. J. Land
Pfc. Z. B. Li
Pfc. F. Marin
Pvt. L. J. Martinez
Pfc. M. A. Martinez
Pvt. M. L. Martinez
Pvt. D. D. Mills
Pfc. C. N. Morales
Pvt. P. T. Navarrow
Pvt. B. N Nickle
Pfc. R. B. Ohara
Pvt. E. I. Ortiz
Pvt. R. Ortiz
Pfc. J. A. Ouren
Pvt. J. L. Palonis
Pvt. S. Parks
Pvt. S. A. Patnode
*Pfc. A. L. Porter
Pfc. J. E. Quesada
Pfc. K. B. Raithlopez
Pfc. D. Ramirez
Pfc. T. M. Real
Pfc. R. C. Reyes
Pfc. J. C. Rhoads
Pvt. T. B. Riggs
Pfc. T. B. Riley
*Pfc. J. M. Rios
Pvt. B. Rock
Pvt. A. E. Rodriguez
Pvt. D. R. Rodriguez
Pvt. W. L. Roe
Pvt. B. H. Rome
Pvt. T. R. Roquemore
Pfc. O. Ruiz
Pvt. M. D. Salazar
Pfc. M. D. Sam
Pvt. C. Samora
Pfc. J. A. Schaffer
*Pfc. B. Schoeck
Pvt. E. Schuda
Pvt. S. S. Scott
*Pfc. J. T. Serbantez
Pvt. A. Shkolnik
Pvt. A. Sinnett
Pvt. J. Sinnett
Pvt. T. J. Spencer
Pvt. C. E. Sporck
Pfc. G. D. Storts
Pfc. A. Tafoya
Pfc. A. J. T. Taylor
Pvt. D. J. Tennant
Pvt. K. Tentoni
Pfc. J. D. Teregeyo
Pvt. J. E. Teske
Pvt. R. H. Thackerson
Pvt. P. S Tillotson
Pvt. I. J. Tilman
Pvt. E. Torres
Pvt. B. R Vaughan
Pvt. F. Velazquez
Pvt. X. E. Webb
Pvt. C. D. Welch
Pvt. C. M. Wiebe
Pfc. J. Winn
Pvt. A. J. Woodcock
Pvt. A. M. Wright
Pvt. L. C. Yepsen
Pvt. A. L. Zimmerman

*Meritorious promotion

The Math of II MEF Motor T

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.-- (Dec. 2, 2005) -- When the II Marine Expeditionary Force left for Iraq, the majority of the Marines from the motor transport shop went along. However, their vehicles stayed here under the charge of a select few mechanics. For these Marines, maintaining a fleet of approximately 140 vehicles with a minimum number of people is a manageable task.

Submitted by: II Marine Expeditionary Force
Story Identification #: 2005122145414
Story by Sgt. Tracee L. Jackson

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.-- (Dec. 2, 2005) -- When the II Marine Expeditionary Force left for Iraq, the majority of the Marines from the motor transport shop went along. However, their vehicles stayed here under the charge of a select few mechanics. For these Marines, maintaining a fleet of approximately 140 vehicles with a minimum number of people is a manageable task.

“We put in some long days,” said Sgt. Wayne J. Evans, acting platoon sergeant at the motor pool. He and his Marines are carrying the same workload once shouldered by a group more than twice the size currently on hand.

The shop consists of vehicle operators and mechanics of High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicles and 7-ton trucks. While vehicle operators are busy delivering supplies and troops as well as license validations, the mechanics are tasked to keep the vehicles rolling safely down the road, said Evans.

“We do up to second echelon maintenance on vehicles. The first echelon is made up of small (preventative maintenance) issues, like tires and fluids. The second echelon goes into a little more detail, like hear hubs, oil, transmissions, gear changing, and stuff like that.”

Pfc. Josue Vega, of Perth Amboy, N.J. is one of the newest Marines in the shop, yet has a clear understanding of the mission at hand.

“If we don’t have people to fix vehicles, no troops or supplies would get anywhere,” said Vega, a newcomer to the Corps with only 11 months in.

Pfc. Justin Eaton has clocked a year in the Marine Corps, and has spent that time in the mechanical trade as well. He agreed on the significance of the motor pool’s mission.

“It makes the whole unit function,” said the Hinghan, Mass., native, “without this, the mission wouldn’t be accomplished. Even the little bolts that make you mad because you can’t get them out mean something. Without that bolt being in the right way, the vehicle wouldn’t run right and whoever runs this truck, whether it’s the infantry, intelligence or whoever, might not be able to get their job done.”

“Working here gives me a sense of responsibility,” said Vega.

Cpl. Robert F. Fletcher of Brook Park, Ohio, returned from his second tour in Iraq approximately a month ago and has re-joined II MEF Motor T with a refreshed perspective on the job he does.

“You always want to make sure you do your best in the aspect of your job,” he said. “You also want to make your troops strive to be better.”

Among myriad wrench-turning jobs around the garage, Fletcher, Vega, and their fellow Marines keep the garage and its equipment in working order for the return of the deployed Marines. In the mean time, the garage at home is in good hands.

Tech takes career one step at a time

MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii (Dec. 02, 2005) -- He quietly sits alone, waiting to board a C-130 transport plane that is heading to the mainland to participate in a one-month training exercise at Marine Corps Air Station, Yuma, Ariz., with the rest of his unit, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463.


Submitted by: MCB Hawaii
Story Identification #: 2005122181552
Story by Pfc. Edward C. deBree

MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii (Dec. 02, 2005) -- He quietly sits alone, waiting to board a C-130 transport plane that is heading to the mainland to participate in a one-month training exercise at Marine Corps Air Station, Yuma, Ariz., with the rest of his unit, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463.

The young aviation technician will train in a desert environment to prepare for an upcoming deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“My thought on deploying to Iraq is that they asked us to go, so we’re going,” said Sgt. Zachary Pilon, HMH-463. “I’ve been deployed to a few places before, but this is my first one to a combat situation.”

Pilon has been deployed to Japan, twice, and four times to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, to prepare for deployments to combat zones. Now he has the chance to show that all the training he has completed so far was well worth the effort.

“I’m not really afraid of going to Iraq, because that’s my job,” said the 25-year-old, Myrtle Beach, S.C. native. “It needs to be done, so I have to do what I have to do.”

Pilon joined the Marine Corps after graduating from high school. He said that he knew after finishing high school that college was not in the cards for him.

“I joined because I didn’t want to go to college,” said Pilon. “I wasn’t ready for college, because I was basically done with school and the whole education environment. Being 18 years old at the time, I had to do something or else I was going nowhere.”

Pilon decided to join the Marine Corps because the Marine recruiter showed more interest in helping him decide what to do after high school. The Marine recruiter’s influence was one aspect that helped him decide to join the Marine Corps in June 1998. But it was also an easy decision because he knew the other services weren’t going to suit his needs.

“I knew I didn’t want to join the Navy, because I didn’t want to go on ships, which is ironic because I ended up on ships,” he said. “I didn’t even talk to the Air Force, and I didn’t join the Army because of my stepfather. He was in the Army, and he told me a lot of war stories of when he was in the Army, and I completely shut out the Army because of that.”

When Pilon walked into the recruiting office, he was hoping to get a job that dealt with computers. Instead he got one that dealt with helicopters, something that he has since learned to enjoy.

“When they told me my job, I didn’t know what it really was,” he said. “I did have a general idea, so I knew that I had to go to the school with an open mind. I have no complaints with the job I have.”

Being stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, gave Pilon the opportunity to meet the woman that would eventually become his wife of almost four years.

With his hectic work schedule and spending time with his wife, Pilon still finds time to attend Chaminade University on base. Pilon already has earned an associate’s degree in criminal justice and is currently working on his bachelor’s degree. Even though he has a degree that will help him when he leaves the Marine Corps, Pilon said he is undecided about what he will do after he gets out, or even if he will get out.

“I have thought about getting out before, but then I reenlisted,” he said. “I think the best thing I can do is take my career in the Marine Corps one enlistment at a time.”

December 1, 2005

Rural Md. town grieves over second Marine killed in six weeks

HAMPSTEAD, Md. -- A Marine from Camp Lejeune, N.C., was killed in combat in Iraq, the second military casualty within six weeks from his tightly knit rural community.


Dec 1, 2005 : 7:11 pm ET

HAMPSTEAD, Md. -- A Marine from Camp Lejeune, N.C., was killed in combat in Iraq, the second military casualty within six weeks from his tightly knit rural community.

Cpl. Joshua D. Snyder, 20, of Hampstead, died Wednesday of wounds sustained from small-arms fire while fighting enemy forces in Fallujah, the Defense Department said Thursday. The U.S. military in Iraq said two Marines were mortally wounded in Fallujah on Wednesday.

Snyder was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Lejeune.

A 2002 graduate of Hereford High School in northern Baltimore County, Snyder was the second alumnus of the school to die in Iraq in five weeks, said Steve Turnbaugh, the football coach at Hereford.

Snyder, who played football, was a teammate of Marine Lance Cpl. Norman Anderson III, of Parkton, who died Oct. 19 from a suicide vehicle-borne explosive device while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Karabilah, Iraq. The men had been roommates at boot camp.

"It's been very tough on the guys that he graduated with. We have a very close-knit football family, and it's been hard on the football players, both past and present," Turnbaugh said.

Turnbaugh recalled that Snyder had been injured for most of his senior year on the team and took on the role of a student coach.

"He was always willing to help anybody do anything," Turnbaugh said.

PJC scholarship to help keep fallen Marine's spirit alive

One fallen Marine's commitment to honor and serve will live on at Pensacola Junior College.


Lesley Conn

His family and his community are making sure of that.

Pensacola Junior College officials honored Marine Cpl. Jonathan "J.R.'' Spears on Wednesday with a certificate of recognition for the year he attended, beginning in August 2002.

Spears, 21, of Molino died Oct. 23 under hostile fire in Iraq. He was the first service casualty in Iraq from the Pensacola area, and his death touched off an outpouring of support that spread far beyond the North Escambia County community.

"We don't recognize students very often who don't graduate. There's only one other time that I know of," said James Callaway, who coordinated the recognition before retiring last month as registrar. "But J.R. was special. The situation was special. We did want to recognize him as a student for giving us our freedom."

Spears' parents, Timothy and Marie Spears, established a memorial scholarship fund in his honor. On Wednesday, they completed plans to give those funds -- more than $10,000 -- to PJC. The state will match that money dollar for dollar, which should generate enough money to provide a one-year, annual scholarship to the school for years to come, J.R. Spears' uncle, Ed Spears, said.

The scholarship will be awarded each year to a graduate of Tate High School, Spears' alma mater.

It was important to keep the scholarship within the community, Spears' grandmother, Mary Spears, said.

"It's the people of Pensacola and Molino who engulfed us in their love," she said. "They just picked us up and kind of carried us."

Bush uses area Marine's letter

Cpl. Jeff Starr of Snohomish was killed at age 22 in Iraq on his third tour of duty.

At the close of his speech Wednesday, President Bush sought to rally support for the Iraq war by quoting a letter written by Cpl. Jeff Starr, a Snohomish Marine who died at age 22 on his third tour of duty.


By Hal Bernton

Seattle Times staff reporter

Cpl. Jeff Starr of Snohomish was killed at age 22 in Iraq on his third tour of duty.

At the close of his speech Wednesday, President Bush sought to rally support for the Iraq war by quoting a letter written by Cpl. Jeff Starr, a Snohomish Marine who died at age 22 on his third tour of duty.

After Starr's death from sniper fire, the letter to a girlfriend was found on the Marine's laptop computer. Bush read an edited excerpt that declared Starr's willingness to die for the cause of freedom, but skipped over a portion in which Starr noted that he was on his third tour of duty and "pushing my chances."

The excerpt that Bush read:

"If you're reading this, then I've died in Iraq. ... I don't regret going. Everybody dies, but a few get to do it for something as important as freedom.

"It may seem confusing why we're in Iraq; it's not to me. I'm here helping these people so they can live the way we live, not to have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. Others have died for my freedom; now this is my mark."

Bush said there was only one way to honor the sacrifice of Starr and his fallen comrades. "And that is to take up their mantle, carry on the fight and complete their mission."

Starr's parents, Brian and Shellie Starr, said Wednesday that Bush's speechwriters had called them to ask permission to use the letter in the speech. They were pleased that Bush read the excerpts.

"I am very humbled by it, and also very grateful that Jeffrey would be recognized at that level," Shellie Starr said. "They are all heroes, the ones that are deployed now. The caliber of people is amazing."

Starr joined the Marines in March 2001. He died last spring with three weeks left to serve in Iraq.

Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or [email protected]

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

Caring at Christmas: Marines play for toys

Yuma Marines earned bragging rights on Wednesday night.

A team made up of Marines from several units at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma beat Yuma High, the two-time city champions, 25-20 in the first-ever Yuma Toys for Tots flag football game at Yuma's Doan Field.


Dec 1, 2005, 12:07

Yuma Marines earned bragging rights on Wednesday night.

A team made up of Marines from several units at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma beat Yuma High, the two-time city champions, 25-20 in the first-ever Yuma Toys for Tots flag football game at Yuma's Doan Field.

An estimated 320 toys were collected at the football game. The Yuma High Student Council also donated $40 in cinnamon roll sales to Toys for Tots.

Sgt. Kyle Milette, with Marine Fighter Training Squadron-401, said he wanted to organize this event because he was involved with a similar one the last place he was stationed. It's a fun fundraiser for the players and the fans, Milette said.

"I wanted to do this so all of us could step up and make a difference in the community," Milette said after the victory. "The idea was conceived with the best intentions and we met them."

He also was pleased with the outcome on the field.

"It was very exciting. I actually thought we were going down. I said to someone on the sidelines '50 yards in 4.5 seconds is not going to happen,'" Milette said.

Maj. Gary Golembiski, of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, prepares to throw a pass as Yuma High's Michael Carbajal (right) puts on the pressure Wednesday night at Doan Field.
But that's exactly what did happen.

With less than five seconds left and the Criminals up by one point, Marine quarterback Maj. Gary Golembiski, with VMFT-401, threw a long pass to Lance Cpl. Tony Ellerbe, with the MCAS' personal support detachment, for the game-winning score.

That was after Josh Hall's touchdown tied the game with 44 seconds. T.J. Gardner added the extra point for the 20-19 lead.

Yuma coach Rhett Stallworth said his team played well.

"It's a good cause. I'm hoping it catches on and we do more of these. It was good time," Stallworth said. "Unfortunately for us, we lost. We almost won it with 17 seconds left."

The Marine team had two practices prior to Wednesday night's game.

Milette said he warned Yuma athletic director Mike Sharp of the Marines' toughness and competitive nature.

"I told them to bring their 'A' game," he said.

Michelle Volkmann can be reached at [email protected] or 539-6855.

Iraqis Will Have Secure Voting Environment, General Says

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2005 – The success of joint Iraqi and coalition operations in Iraq will ensure a safe voting environment for Iraqi national elections, a senior military official in Iraq said today.

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2005 – The success of joint Iraqi and coalition operations in Iraq will ensure a safe voting environment for Iraqi national elections, a senior military official in Iraq said today.

"We see great progress in our operations," Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, said at a news conference in Baghdad.

But one element of concern casts a shadow over that progress: Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi still has 15 days to try and derail the democratic process in Iraq, Lynch said.

This mission is becoming an increasing struggle for the terrorist leader, however, the general said. He cited the success of recent coalition offensive operations in Iraq and the Nov. 10 hotel bombings in Amman, Jordan, that caused backlash against the terrorist leader in his home country. Zarqawi's al Qaeda in Iraq network claimed responsibility for the attacks, spurring Jordanian protests denouncing the terrorist leader.

"He's struggling because we've taken away a lot of his munitions," Lynch said. "He's struggling because we've denied him safe havens across Iraq. He's struggling because we've taken away his freedom of movement."

Zarqawi also has lost 117 network leaders since January, Lynch noted, including his executive secretary, Abu Ubaydah, killed in October in what Lynch called "a blow for freedom."

Despite continuing insurgent activity, progress is being made in Iraq, Lynch said.

About 214,000 Iraqi security forces are trained and equipped, and the country has re-established control of its border, the general told reporters. On Nov. 30 the Iraqi defense minister declared the Iraq border with Syria at Husaybah sealed. It was a known entry point for Zarqawi and his forces, Lynch said.

During the past week, 11 car bombs exploded, 13 fewer than the preceding week. The reduction in car bombings is directly linked to joint Iraqi and coalition force operations that have turned up about 301 weapons caches in November, Lynch said, adding that that is the largest number of caches discovered since January.

Operation Tigers, an ongoing joint operation that began in Ramadi on Nov. 27, included cordon-and-search operations that resulted in the discovery of numerous weapons caches, Lynch said. Operation Iron Hammer recently started with the goal of denying Zarqawi the use of the eastern side of the Euphrates River as a safe haven, he added.

"In Kirkuk, we found the mother of all weapons caches," Lynch said, referring to a large cache discovered Nov. 27 on a tip from a local citizen. "The people of Iraq who are tired of the insurgency are turning to Iraqi security force members and saying, 'Hey, here's where they're storing their munitions.'"

Iraqi border enforcement also is beefed up and successfully patrolling the country's borders. The Border Enforcement Department now boasts 18,000 members, an increase of 3,000 since January. The addition of 170 border forts along the Iraqi border to the 58 existing in January makes the border easier to protect. Border enforcement expects to have 258 complete border forts by January, Lynch said.

The border patrol is employing technology at the border crossings, he said. A type of X-ray machine known as a Backscatter system is being used to scan cargo vehicles to detect people trying to enter Iraq by hiding in cargo.

All of these strides in security and stability are laying groundwork for an upcoming successful Iraqi national election, Lynch said.

"On the 15th of December, there will be peaceful elections in Iraq," Lynch said. "The people of Iraq will vote for a new Iraq. They're excited, and we are equally excited."

US Marines treat 2,000th patient in quake zone

More than 2,000 patients have been treated by US Marines and nearly nine million kilos of humanitarian aid has been unloaded by the Air Force in relief operations in earthquake-ravaged Pakistani Kashmir, the US military announced.


01/12/2005 - 07:58:26

More than 2,000 patients have been treated by US Marines and nearly nine million kilos of humanitarian aid has been unloaded by the Air Force in relief operations in earthquake-ravaged Pakistani Kashmir, the US military announced.

The Marines, deployed from their bases in southern Japan, opened a field hospital in the town of Shinkiari in the Kashmir quake zone on November 17, and treated their 2,000th patient yesterday, the military said.

The hospital has 60 beds, X-ray capability, an emergency room, a laboratory and a pharmacy.

“It’s deeply gratifying to know we’ve had such a significant impact,” said Cmdr. Tom Davis, senior medical officer for Combined Medical Relief Team 3.

“It’s emotionally trying to witness the suffering of the Pakistani people,” he said. “But it feels good knowing you’re making a difference one life at a time.”

The Air Force, meanwhile, unloaded its 250th relief flight at Chaklala Air Base on Tuesday. The Air Force unit has moved 7,200 boxes of food, 2,200 boxes of water, 4,600 sleeping bags and 4,500 tents. The unit has also helped handle aid from more than 20 other countries, it said.

“There are humans in need, and the rest of humanity is rushing to help,” Col. Richard Walberg, commander of the unit, said in the statement.

The magnitude-7.6 earthquake on October 8 killed at least 87,000 people and destroyed the homes of another 3.5 million people.

Officials say the onset of winter conditions is severely hampering relief operations, so the focus is remaining on immediate needs instead of long-term reconstruction.

Once More Into the Breach

Bob Newman to be embedded reporter with 2nd Marine Division in the first week of January


November 30, 2005

by Bob Newman

The email came in this morning.

A Marine officer from the Ground Combat Element-Multi-National Force (GCE-MNF) in western Iraq was informing me that the 2nd Marine Division would be awaiting my arrival in al Anbar Province in the first week in January 2006. My media "embed" request had been approved.

In my mind’s eye, time turned back to May 1977, Platoon 3037, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina. Private Newman was standing at attention in the "DI hut" in my platoon’s squad bay. Seated before the recruit was the recruit’s senior drill instructor, Staff Sergeant John Mock, the most intimidating and fearsome man the recruit had ever encountered in his 19 years of life. Having just called the recruit into the hut from his duty as fire watch that evening, the recruit was sure his days were about to come to a gruesome and graphic end because of some crime against the Corps he had unwittingly committed.

But my demise was not in the cards. Instead, Staff Sergeant Mock, knowing that in a few days this recruit would become a Marine, was curious to see what this recruit thought about what he thought life in the Corps would be like.

"Newman, what are you set to do in the Corps?" he asked without screaming.

"Sir, the private is going to be a grunt, sir."

"You ask for that, Newman?" the senior DI asked calmly as he actually handed me a half a cup of black coffee.

"Sir, yes sir." My slightly shaking hand reached out for the cup, sure it was an ambush.

"Well, Private Newman, in the Corps, you have to be careful about what you ask for. Now take your coffee and get back on duty."

I did so.

Reading the email a second time, I recalled the famous line from Henry V: "Once more unto the breach, my friends, once more."

In the blink of an eye, my usual Wednesday morning was anything but. Far to the east on the other side of the planet, Marines were on patrol; Marines I would soon meet and be on patrol with. I tried to imagine their faces, the steel in their young eyes and the grim visages of living legends with a deadly mission. I, too, once wore that face. A face I would retrieve from a dusty, olive-drab footlocker in my garage, where are stowed the signs and symbols and memories of another lifetime; a hideously sharp KA-BAR knife, a pair of desert combat boots, desert camouflage utilities, a web belt with gold buckle, dog tags, a photo of my platoon in the Gulf War in Kuwait, and a thousand more reminders of what I once was: a hired gun among hired guns.

Pulling the KA-BAR from its sheath, I read the inscription on the blade, put there by the non-commissioned officers of my Gulf War platoon, some of whom are now the gunnery sergeants leading Marines in combat.

I walked into my backyard with the KA-BAR and stood facing the east and Iraq and the 2nd Marine Division, my dog looking at me curiously.

"Gunny Newman, incoming." After I said that to no one in particular, I realized I was smiling. It was the smile you wear when destiny comes calling and you greet it as a friend.

I secured the knife, draped my dog tags around my neck, pulled my faded seabag from the footlocker, and started packing my trash.

Bob Newman
Bob Newman, a decorated, retired US Marine, is host of the “Gunny Bob Show” on Newsradio 850 KOA in Denver. A ground-combat veteran, he is the director of international security & counterterrorism services for The GeoScope Group. He can be reached at [email protected]

Round demolishes from inside out

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. (Dec. 1, 2005) -- The Marine Corps’ newest addition to the Shoulder Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon family of munitions, designed to root out al Qaeda and Taliban forces in the caves of Afghanistan, is proving its worth on the streets of Fallujah and elsewhere in Iraq.


Submitted by: MCB Quantico
Story Identification #: 2005121143842
Story by Cpl. Jonathan Agg

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. (Dec. 1, 2005) -- The Marine Corps’ newest addition to the Shoulder Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon family of munitions, designed to root out al Qaeda and Taliban forces in the caves of Afghanistan, is proving its worth on the streets of Fallujah and elsewhere in Iraq.

Although the SMAW-Novel Explosive round functions just like the 21-year-old SMAW High Explosive Dual-Purpose round, the SMAW-NE boasts a much larger explosive fill. The SMAW-NE contains four pounds of PBXN-113, an aluminized high explosive composition with similar characteristics to the 2.4-pound load of Aluminized Composition A3 fill in the SMAW-HEDP round.

The SMAW-NE also uses delayed fusing, allowing the warhead to detonate after penetrating lightly-clad structures, in some cases completely destroying the targeted building.

Michael Woodson, Marine Corps Systems Command’s SMAW project officer, said the SMAW-NE gives Marines a stand-off capability when clearing buildings in urban settings, avoiding the hazardous practice of engaging the enemy in close quarters combat.

“Unlike the dual purpose round, which would most likely hit the structure and detonate on the outside and put a hole in it, the kinetic energy of the (SMAW-NE) round itself will punch a hole in (the structure), then it will go into delay mode and detonate inside,” said Woodson. “What happens in this particular case, because you’re in an enclosed space, the shockwave reflects off the walls, amplifying the effect. Depending on the construction of that structure, it could bring it down. If you fired that NE round against reinforced concrete or triple brick, it most likely wouldn’t penetrate the wall. That’s why the Marines in Iraq, when they employ the NE, fire it through an existing opening like a window or door, or if they don’t have an opening, they will make an opening with a dual-purpose round and shoot the (NE round) through that hole.”

Also in the SMAW family is the SMAW-High Explosive Anti-Armor round, and the inert Common Practice Training round.

In April 2003, early in Operation Iraqi Freedom, a Systems Command liaison team reported two firings of the SMAW-NE. The first successfully leveled a large one-story masonry building from 100 meters. The second reportedly failed to breach a masonry wall after the unit unsuccessfully attempted to enter the structure by mechanically breaching a door.

Woodson said further field reports following more recent urban conflicts in Iraq have been overwhelmingly positive.

“The operators, the people who have been there and employed the weapon, love it,” said Woodson. “The users like it and they want more.”

Woodson also responded to recent criticism of the “brutal” force of the Novel Explosive round.

“It is not a fuel air explosive. It is not any profound new target-defeat mechanism,” said Woodson. “The way the warhead functions and the way the event takes place is no different from the dual-purpose round. The only difference is you have 1.6 more pounds of explosive, and you have a warhead case that is designed to punch a hole in a lightly clad structure and detonate inside.

Thermobarics were originally looked at as a technology to meet the requirement, however, based on engineering analysis, the use of a conventional type of solid explosive met the need, vice the quasi-liquid mixtures used in thermobarics.

Woodson also challenged the suggestion that the NE round is too brutal for its intended use.

“The key part of this whole discussion that is ongoing now is the implication that this is something inhumane, and it’s not. There is documentation to prove that,” Woodson said. “If it didn’t comply with the Law of War criteria, we wouldn’t field it. This is a requirement we have to go through before we can get approval for service use of a weapon.”

A September 2002 legal review of the SMAW-NE by the Judge Advocate General of the Navy defined indiscriminate, or “blind” weapons as not distinguishing between combatants and innocent civilians. The NE round did not fall into this category of illegal weapon because it is fired from “the existing SMAW and will be aimed at point targets via the open battle sights or the MK 42 optical or the AN/PVS-4 night sight … The (NE round) is discriminate as it can be aimed in a manner that discriminates between combatants and non-combatants.”

The review also reported the temperatures in the target area were not significant enough to classify the SMAW-NE as an incendiary weapon. It further stated the lethality of the weapon is caused primarily by its concussion with secondary effects from flying debris from the target area.

“Anything that kills people is inhumane, but the implication is (the SMAW-NE) is in violation of the laws of war, and it’s not,” Woodson said. “Why isn’t the Marine Corps running around, beating its chest about it? What advantage is that? Why would we tell the bad guys what this thing can do? Why would we let them know we have any capability? The SMAW-NE is just another effective tool in the USMC arsenal.”

Officials celebrate Iraqi troops' growing role in securing border

HUSABA, Iraq - On a sandy soccer field guarded by snipers on nearby rooftops, just miles from Iraq's menacing border with Syria, U.S. and Iraqi forces on Wednesday celebrated what they considered progress: Iraqi forces gradually getting better at securing the border and the nearby towns.

By Nancy A. Youssef

Knight Ridder Newspapers

HUSABA, Iraq - On a sandy soccer field guarded by snipers on nearby rooftops, just miles from Iraq's menacing border with Syria, U.S. and Iraqi forces on Wednesday celebrated what they considered progress: Iraqi forces gradually getting better at securing the border and the nearby towns.

Gen. George Casey, the American commander in Iraq, joined Iraqi Minister of Defense Sadoun al-Dulaimi and about 35 Iraqi officers who are in charge of guarding the Iraqi-Syrian border for a ceremony timed to coincide with President Bush's speech Wednesday outlining his administration's strategy in Iraq.

U.S. and Iraqi leaders said that since the latest joint American-Iraqi offensive in that region, Operation Steel Curtain, cities such as Husaba no longer were safe havens for foreign fighters crossing that desolate border.

And they said that because of the offensive, the Iraqi officers could go back to their jobs in the city and along the border and work on improving their skills. All reasons, they said, to celebrate.

The ceremony also was aimed at illustrating a major theme from Bush's speech: The job in Iraq is only half-done.

U.S. forces said they'd stay close to the Iraqis as those troops continued learning how to secure the border. Indeed, Iraqi commanders in this volatile part of the country said they couldn't do their jobs without help from American soldiers.

"In any place the Iraqi army works, the American forces are present," said Col. Razak Salem, a brigade commander in the Iraqi army. His area includes al Qaim - near Husaba - and the border. "We still need some support from the coalition forces."

Among those at the ceremony were dozens of U.S. soldiers, some of whom have spent their entire Iraq rotations training border forces.

Col. Mike Pannell, of the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, said he began training the western border officers in May, when he arrived in Iraq. He's tasked with getting them ready to operate on their own by May next year, when his unit is scheduled to leave.

Pannell, of Columbus, Ohio, said he was optimistic that he'd succeed, adding that his goal was to get the border officers to "operate like coalition forces."

Officially, the border officers are called the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Region, Department of Border Enforcement, but they're often referred to as Desert Wolves.

Pannell said they mostly came from just south of Baghdad, young men on duty full time for two months without a break in austere forts half-buried in the desert. Each fort is up to 9 miles apart from the next.

When the officers aren't patrolling the border, they're training. American soldiers are always nearby.

They began their training at a two-week police academy before heading out to the border. On the job, they relearn everything that was addressed in the classroom: patrolling, shooting and communications, Pannell said.

He said he and his Marine colleagues patrolled with the Iraqis, adding that so far they'd caught 160 suspected terrorists trying to cross the border.

"We will continue to train them and sharpen their skills" until we leave, Pannell said. "It is a continual process."

Casey echoed Bush's stance that setting a deadline for withdrawal was counterproductive.

"There is not a timeline. It is all conditions-based," Casey said. "And we do monthly assessments with Iraqi leaders and coalition counterparts. They assess the readiness of Iraqi units, military and police, and they make judgments based on those assessments. And the progress of the Iraqi security forces has been steady over the last months."

Al-Dulaimi, the defense minister, said he was hoping to redeploy U.S. forces to other parts of the country as soon as he could. In his speech to the soldiers, he said it was up to them to stop insurgents from entering the country. If they didn't, the American and Iraqi militaries would launch more offensives such as Steel Curtain.

Nearby, neighborhoods were still recovering from the operation, in which forces tried to rout out insurgents who were living interspersed with law-abiding citizens. Between standing houses were lots full of charred rubble. In some, residents were rebuilding.

One border officer, Saed Khamees Kadhim, 23, of Baghdad, said he didn't want to see that kind of destruction again.

"I am here to secure my country," he said.

U.S., Iraqi forces launch offensive near Hit

Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Thursday, December 1, 2005

More than 2,500 U.S. and Iraqi troops launched an offensive near the Euphrates River city of Hit, hoping to clear an area “not typically patrolled by Iraqi and U.S. forces,” officials said Wednesday.

To continue reading:


Soldiers, Marines in Iraq not surprised by Bush's speech

By Anita Powell and Monte Morin, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Thursday, December 1, 2005

BAGHDAD — About 10 minutes after the chow hall opened for dinner Wednesday, soldiers and contractors were filling the place. In one corner, a television tuned to the British Broadcasting Corp. was showing live coverage of President Bush’s speech from Annapolis, Md.

To continue reading:


Group Of US Marines In Broken Arrow Called Up To Duty

More northeastern Oklahoma US Marines get called to duty in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.


25 Broken Arrow Marines with the Anti-Tank Training Company will report for duty Thursday.

They will assist another US Marine unit in California for the next seven months to a year. If that unit goes to Iraq, the Broken Arrow Marines would go as well.

Pack troops' holiday mail tight and soon, USPS says

Santa delivers on Christmas morning. Everyone else, especially those with loved ones in the U.S. military overseas, had better get moving before then if packages are to arrive in time for the holidays.


The Washington Post
Santa delivers on Christmas morning. Everyone else, especially those with loved ones in the U.S. military overseas, had better get moving before then if packages are to arrive in time for the holidays.

Christmas is Dec. 25, a Sunday. Hanukkah begins at sundown the same day.

First-class mail for most overseas military posts must be sent by Dec. 10, according to the U.S. Postal Service. For first-class mail bound for Iraq and Afghanistan, however, the deadline is Dec. 5.

Many troops from Camp Lejeune and Fort Bragg in North Carolina are in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mail sent to them should not contain perishable items and must be securely wrapped with heavy-duty shipping tape.

Procrastinators, take note: Mail for most military addresses can be sent as late as Dec. 19, but must be sent by Express Mail Military Service. That service is not available at all post offices, and will not work for mail to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Folks sending mail to a military address should include the service member's name and an Air/Army Post Office or Fleet Post Office address. Packages cannot be addressed to "Any Service Member."
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be published, broadcast or redistributed in any manner.

A real survivor

Whitefish Marine tells story of being wounded in Iraq
Sgt. Caleb Pleasants watched a bullet ricochet off a ledge, then hit a wall and fall to the ground in a desert town near the Syrian border. (13th MEU Marine)


Posted: Tuesday, Nov 29, 2005 - 11:10:22 pm PST
The Daily Inter Lake

Whitefish Marine tells story of being wounded in Iraq
Sgt. Caleb Pleasants watched a bullet ricochet off a ledge, then hit a wall and fall to the ground in a desert town near the Syrian border.

He leaned over and picked up the bullet as a souvenir of Operation Steel Curtain.

“I thought that’s the closest a bullet’s ever going to come to me,” Pleasants said Tuesday as he displayed the squashed bullet in a small plastic bag.

The Marine squad leader couldn’t have been more wrong, however.

He was wounded just a few days later, during a fierce firefight with cornered insurgents in the Iraqi town of Ubaydi. Some memories are vivid, some are obscure, but Pleasants tells the story calmly and clearly as he recounts the battle from the home of his parents, Steven and Lori Pleasants, in Whitefish, where he is recuperating.

He chooses his words carefully, never revealing Marine fighting strategy, position or troop strength. Pleasants exhibits a poise and maturity that belies his 22 years, and it is easy to see why the young Marine had earlier earned a place guarding the president at Camp David.

He has seen and accomplished much since graduating from Flathead Christian School in 2001.

Pleasants said he was inspired to join the Marines by his uncle Paul Yuzapavik. He signed up for the delayed entry program when he was a senior in high school and headed off to basic training in February 2002. His marksmanship and other qualities soon got noticed in high places.

“I was selected to go into presidential security,” Pleasants said.

To qualify, he went through a series of interviews, tests and then an eight-month background check for a top security clearance. It led to two years service at Camp David about which he reveals very little.

“I can’t get any information either,” his mother Lori said with laugh.

She showed pictures of her son with President Bush in the Oval Office and with the first lady and the president at Camp David at Christmas time.

Pleasants will say simply that he guarded the president for two years and that he got an up-close look at President Bush as a real person and saw the burden of responsibility he deals with daily.

“He’s a real nice guy,” Pleasants said.

After two years, he rotated out of Camp David to Fleet Marine Force, a combined command of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. In preparation for service with ground troops, he trained for five months at Camp Pendleton near San Diego, then in Australia, the Philippines and Egypt.

Compared to the rigors of Camp David, it was like a vacation.

“I got to relax more,” he said.

Pleasants served in the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

“Anywhere in the world at anytime, the Marines have forward-deployed units,” he said.

As a member of the 13th MEU, Pleasants was stationed aboard the USS Cleveland, awaiting orders to one of the world’s hot spots. The call came from the hottest of all, the insurgent-infested area of Iraq in the Al-Anbar province that borders Syria.

Pleasants said once he was in the battle zone, he lost track of time.

“I didn’t even know what day it was half the time,” he said with a laugh. “We were there a couple of months.”

Operation Steel Curtain began on Nov. 5, and according to Pleasants, his training prepared him well for combat. About 2,000 Americans and 1,000 Iraqi soldiers made the sweep through the province, which involved fighting in and out of closely clustered houses with courtyard entries that provided lots of hiding places for the enemy.

Pleasants was part of Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, First Marine Division, which was deployed to clear the cities of Husayba and Karabila of insurgents and terrorists. The Marine said civilians were warned to get out of the towns, but many didn’t heed the warning.

“The toughest part was telling the civilians apart from the fighters,” Pleasants said. “But we did a good job.”

During the searches, the Marines left the families in their houses, and the civilians showed no hostility toward the Americans.

Instead, Pleasants said, the civilians considered the insurgents gangsters who bullied and robbed them with no concern for their safety during fighting. The regular citizens welcomed coalition forces ridding their cities of the bad guys they call “Ali Baba.”

“Sometimes we would stay with them (civilians) and they would cook food for us,” Pleasants said.

He recalled a man who had a hole in his water tank. Pleasants came up with a fix, using rubber from an old shoe as a patch and super glue, a commodity unknown to these citizens

“He was real happy,” Pleasants said with a smile. “He cooked us a lamb.”

The Marines encountered sporadic firefights and improvised explosive devices as they pushed through the first two cities.

“I was surprised that I stayed calm,” Pleasants said of his first combat experience.

As a squad leader, Pleasants’ job was to orient and control his men, making sure, “they’re shooting at the right thing.”

In the town of Ubaydi, the battalion encountered a group of insurgents that was cornered, waiting to make a last stand.

The Marines, equipped with night-vision goggles, advanced in the pitch black of night to gain the element of surprise. Pleasants vividly recalled the deadly explosion that lit up the night as one of the Marines stepped on a mine about 50 meters away. The Marines picked up their dead and wounded, then continued their advance in a three-column sweep of the city.

“We pushed through a third of the city,” he said. “It was pretty much a firefight the whole time.”

Pleasant said he and six other Marines had advanced inside a courtyard and were about to enter a house when one or more insurgents began firing through a window.

The first Marine took a direct hit to the chest, three bullets in the leg and one to his thumb. Miraculously, he survived.

“His plate (bullet-proof vest) stopped the bullet completely,” Pleasants said.

The next Marine went down with a bullet in the leg and the foot, and Pleasants got hit next when a bullet penetrated four inches into his right thigh.

After two of his Marines braved the gunfire to secure the wounded back behind the wall, Pleasants waved in a tank to suppress the enemy fire.

“It pretty much obliterated the house,” he said.

Pleasants and the other wounded were rushed away aboard armored Humvees to a less hostile area where helicopters took them to the nearest field hospital.

He eloquently recalls the pain of the bullet tearing into his leg.

“It felt like getting smashed with a baseball bat and it stung you like a bee,” he said.

But the adrenaline of battle kept it from the forefront of his mind until he got his first pain medication at a field hospital. He was later transferred to a larger facility in Baghdad, and from there he flew to Germany for more treatment and medication.

His X-ray revealed the bullet entered and broke into several pieces that lodged in his leg. Pleasants avoided surgery because the medical staff decided that extracting the pieces would cause more damage than leaving them intact.

He left Iraq, landing first at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C., where a surprise awaited.

“Somehow, my fiancee found out,” he said. “She surprised me there with her family.”

His fiancee, Karin Davis, works as a nurse in Maryland. The couple plans to be married July 8.

The Marine Corps then flew Pleasants back to Camp Pendleton, where his parents picked him up and brought him back to Whitefish Saturday. As they drove in the driveway, they found hundreds of yellow ribbons tied to trees around their home.

Patients from his father’s chiropractic practice were mostly responsible for the welcome home decorations.

Pleasants now has 45 days of leave and expects to make a full recovery from his wounds.

“It’s getting better every day,” he said.

His mother said that Pleasants would receive a purple heart. But he was more interested in talking about nominating two of his men for awards for valor for retrieving the wounded under fire.

After his leave, Pleasants will return to Camp Pendleton to serve out his four-year hitch that ends in April. Then, he will join his uncle, Paul Yuzapavik, in a security firm, American OPSEC, which provides top-flight security for gated communities.

“We’ve been working on it for most of two years,” he said.

Although he will eventually leave the Marine Corps behind, Pleasants believes completely in the mission in Iraq. He said the Iraqi Army grows by the day in size and professionalism.

“They’re motivated, they have a good cause and they’re patriots for their country,” he said.

Reporter Candace Chase may be reached at 758-4436 or by e-mail at [email protected]

Operation Iron Hammer Begins, East of Hit, Iraq

CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, AR RAMADI, Iraq -Iraqi Army soldiers and U.S. Marines, Sailors and Soldiers began operations near Hit in the Hai Al Becker region. (13th MEU)


By Capt. Jeffrey S. Pool

CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, AR RAMADI, Iraq -Iraqi Army soldiers and U.S. Marines, Sailors and Soldiers began operations near Hit in the Hai Al Becker region.

The aim of the operation is to clear the region of al-Qaeda in Iraq-led insurgents and establish a secure environment for the upcoming National Elections, Dec. 15.

Approximately 500 Iraqi Army soldiers from 2nd Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division and 1,500 Marines and Sailors from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit along with 500 Soldiers from 2nd Battalion-114th Field Artillery Regiment are conducting Operation Matraqa Hadidia (Iron Hammer) east of Hit, approximately 170 km from Baghdad.

The Hai Al Becker region is suspected to be an al-Qaeda in Iraq safe area and base of operations for the manufacture of vehicle car bombs, roadside bombs. It is also believed to be a stopping point for insurgents, as they transit the 'rat lines' down the Euphrates River from Syria into the interior of Iraq.

In early July, Iraqi and U.S. Forces established long-term security presence in the city of Hit during Operation Saif (Sword). During Saif, few insurgents were located; however, a score of weapons caches have been discovered in the region.

Operation Iron Hammer will clear the area on the eastern side of the Euphrates River, an area not typically patrolled by Iraqi and U.S. Forces.

Routine updates concerning Operation Iron Hammer will be provided as additional information becomes available.

Source: USMC

Copyright © 2005, NewsBlaze, Daily News

New Campaign Vs. Iraq Insurgents Begins

BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. and Iraqi troops launched an operation in western Iraq to clear insurgents from a suspected safe area used to make car and roadside bombs, the military said Wednesday. (13th MEU)

The Associated Press

BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. and Iraqi troops launched an operation in western Iraq to clear insurgents from a suspected safe area used to make car and roadside bombs, the military said Wednesday.

The campaign came as President Bush defended his Iraq policy by releasing a new war strategy, saying more Iraqi security forces are taking the lead in battle but adding that it is still uncertain when U.S. forces can withdraw.

About 1,500 U.S. Marines from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, 500 U.S. soldiers and 500 Iraqi soldiers were taking part in Operation Iron Hammer near Hit, 85 miles west of Baghdad, a U.S. Marine statement said. The forces would concentrate efforts in the Hai Al Becker region, where U.S. and Iraqi troops rarely patrol, it added.

"The Hai Al Becker region is suspected to be an al-Qaida in Iraq safe area and base of operations for the manufacture of vehicle car bombs, roadside bombs," the military said.

It added that the area is believed to be a stopping point for insurgents traveling down the Euphrates River from Syria into Iraq.

Meanwhile, in the central town of Baqouba, unidentified gunmen opened fire on a minibus early Wednesday, killing nine construction workers and wounding two, police said.

Following a new wave of kidnappings in which five Westerners were abducted since the weekend, German Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed that her government will "not let ourselves be blackmailed" by those who took a German archaeologist hostage.

"The government is doing everything in its power to bring the German citizen and her driver as soon as possible to safety," Merkel said.

Kidnappers have threatened to kill Susanne Osthoff and her Iraqi driver, who were kidnapped Friday, unless Germany halts all contacts with the Iraqi government. German TV station ARD showed images of what appeared to be Osthoff and her driver blindfolded on the floor beside armed and masked militants.

The other four abducted Westerners were members of Christian Peacemaker Teams, a group that has had activists in Iraq since October 2002. The group listed those abducted as Tom Fox, 54, of Clearbrook, Va.; Norman Kember, 74, of London; and James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, of Canada.

On Tuesday, Al-Jazeera broadcast video of the four men held by a previously unknown group calling itself the Swords of Righteousness Brigade. The group claimed they were spies working under the cover of Christian peace activists.

Christian Peacemaker Teams said it was saddened by the videotape of their workers, who the statement said were working against the occupation of Iraq.

"We are angry because what has happened to our teammates is the result of the actions of the U.S. and U.K. government due to the illegal attack on Iraq and the continuing occupation and oppression of its people," the group said.

"We are some of the few internationals left in Iraq who are telling the truth about what is happening to the Iraqi people. We hope that we can continue to do this work and we pray for the speedy release of our beloved teammates."

Loney, a community worker, was leading the Christian group's delegation in Iraq.

A German newspaper, the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung, reported that Osthoff had received a kidnap threat last summer from extremists linked to al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and that U.S. soldiers brought her from Mosul to Baghdad for her own safety.

Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a U.S. military spokesman, said he was unaware of the report but if true, such a move would have been with the knowledge of the German government and "we would ultimately leave it to them" to comment.

Germany has ruled out sending troops to Iraq and opposed the U.S.-led war, but it has been training Iraqi police and military outside the country.

Six Iranian pilgrims were seized Tuesday near a Shiite religious shrine north of Baghdad, police said. Iranian television reported that all were freed Tuesday night.

The latest attacks are part of a new wave of kidnappings police fear is aimed at disrupting the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections.

Iraq was swept by a wave of kidnappings and beheadings of foreigners in 2004 and early 2005, but such attacks have dropped off in recent months as many Western groups have left and security precautions for those who remain have tightened.

Insurgents, including al-Qaida in Iraq, have seized more than 225 people, killing at least 38.

It was unclear whether the recent kidnappings were the work of a single group or simply coincidental. However, police believed they may be part of an insurgent campaign to discredit the government and disrupt the elections.

"Terrorists will try to destabilize the situation during the election period" in order to discourage people from voting, police Maj. Falah Mohammedawi said. "They will try to do this through kidnappings, assassinations and threats to citizens. We have our complete security plan to confront this."

U.S. and Iraqi officials hope a big turnout in the election will undermine the insurgency and improve chances for the United States and its partners to begin reducing troop levels in Iraq next year.

Facing criticism and impatience about the conflict, the White House released a 35-page plan titled "Our National Strategy for Victory in Iraq."

The plan says increasing numbers of Iraqi troops have been equipped and trained, a democratic government is being forged, Iraq's economy is being rebuilt and U.S. military and civilian presence will change as conditions improve.

Along with the report, Bush made a personal appeal to shore up wavering support for the war in remarks Wednesday at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. the first in a series of speeches between now and the parliamentary elections.

Associated Press reporters David Rising in Berlin, Michael Tarm in Chicago and Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.

On the Net:

Christian Peacemaker Teams: http://www.cpt.org

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Copyright © 2005 ABC News Internet Ventures

Aviation Marines break Thanksgiving bread with family, local children

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, OKINAWA, Japan(Nov. 30, 2005) -- Service members with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 hosted 33 Okinawan children for a Thanksgiving celebration in Hangar 533 Nov. 23.


Submitted by:
MCB Camp Butler
Story by:
Computed Name: Lance Cpl. W. Zach Griffith
Story Identification #:

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, OKINAWA, Japan(Nov. 30, 2005) -- Service members with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 hosted 33 Okinawan children for a Thanksgiving celebration in Hangar 533 Nov. 23.

The Thanksgiving dinner was initially planned for the Marines of HMM-265 and their families to celebrate the holiday together, but the squadron decided to invite local children from Misato Children’s Home to partake in the food and fun.

The home is a school for children ages three to 18 who need a stable place to live. The squadron invited the children to help them understand the Marines living in their country, according to 1st Lt. Daniel J. Foust, legal officer for HMM-265.

“We get to see and experience their culture,” he said. “They don’t get to see us and our culture at all. We wanted to invite these kids to come and play and partake in one of our holidays.”

The children settled into the hangar around 3 p.m., and the sound of them playing and laughing echoed off the walls. They jumped around in two inflated play houses set up by the Marines, and they also played in a CH-46 Helicopter cockpit, which the squadron set up as a static display.

Originally, the event was geared toward single Marines who couldn’t be with family during the holiday, but many of those Marines were the ones reaching out to the children.

“Lots of Marines who don’t have their families here adopted one or two of those kids as their family for this holiday,” said Lt. Col. Phillip Reiman, commanding officer for HMM-265.

When it was time to eat, many Marines went through the line holding the children in their arms. Some kids held the Marines’ hands or attached themselves to Marines’ legs.

During the dinner, Pfc. Alvin Okuath, an ordnanceman with HMM-265, picked up a one-year-old boy and held him for the entire dinner. When the food was served, Okuath heaped helpings onto his plate, which he and the youngster finished together.

“It’s so great having these kids here,” Okuath said. “It’s great to share one of our holidays with these kids.”

The overall goal was to have a good time with friends and family while reaching out to the local children at the same time.

“This is a great opportunity to bring us closer to our host nation,” Reiman said. “It’s also a chance to share Thanksgiving with the squad and their families. Sharing this holiday with the children makes it that much more special.”

Hailey Hailey Marine completes 4-year tour

Stavros saw combat in Afghanistan and Iraq


Express Staff Writer

Cpl. Nick Stavros, one of 10 Marines from the Wood River High School 2001 graduating class, greets his brother Ryan at Friedman Memorial Airport Friday, the day he finished four years of active duty, including combat duty in Afghanistan and two tours in Iraq. Photo by Willy Cook

The first time around, 2001 Wood River High School graduate Cpl. Nick Stavros crossed the Iraq border as a Marine Corps liberator. Trained as a machine-gunner, Stavros raced across the empty Iraq desert March 20, 2003, in the gun turret of a Humvee, after Saddam Hussein disregarded President Bush's 48-hour ultimatum to step down as the leader of Iraq. Stavros arrived in the city of al-Nasiriyah to face the hornet's nest of modern urban combat in the ongoing U.S.-led war on terror.

"That's the city where Jessica Lynch got captured," Stavros said, adding that a U.S. sympathizer handed his infantry unit, the 2nd Combat 8th Marines, a note that helped lead to the rescue of the 19-year-old West Virginian soldier in a commando raid on April 2, 2003. Stavros said his unit staged a diversion while Lynch was rescued from Saddam Hospital.

"I don't think a round was fired in the hospital," he said in an interview Tuesday, after his first weekend as an inactive veteran in four years. Stavros still faces four years of inactive reserve duty. He could be called up at any time if the United States calls for any future troop buildup similar to the call-up prior to the invasion of Iraq. He said he will continue to stay in shape in case the call comes.

Stavros' path as a military volunteer began in November 2001, when the then 18-year-old began 13 weeks of boot camp in San Diego, Calif., followed by a 10-day leave in Hailey with his family and another eight weeks of training at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. More training continued that year in Spain with the Spanish Army.

Stavros then returned to Bridgeport, Calif., in September 2002 for mountain warfare training that would come in handy when he shipped off to Afghanistan a year later.

However, by January 2003 Stavros was aboard the U.S.S. Saipan shipping off with two more Marine units for Kuwait. Once there, he was in the company of 5,000 Marines who were off-loaded in helicopters. Five weeks of desert training followed, including chemical warfare training because Iraq was allegedly storing illegal weapons of mass destruction.

"A chemical attack was my greatest fear going in," Stavros said.

Stavros trained in a chemical suit and during his time in Iraq he carried a gas mask at all times.

"I was relieved to get out of al-Nasiriyah," he said. When Lynch was captured 11 soldiers were killed. "We were listening on the radio and (reading intelligence) reports. That was a hostile place."

Stavros' next stop with his MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) in the city of al-Diwaniya was quieter. Daily tasks involved making "presence patrols" to show the Iraqi people that U.S. forces were in the country.

Then, in the city of al-Kut, Stavros said he experienced rounds fired at his unit during riots, but he said his unit was never needed in Baghdad. In late May 2003, Stavros returned to North Carolina via Kuwait and enjoyed another leave with his family that summer.

In September he was called up for duty in Afghanistan, which included border patrols in Asadabad on the border with Pakistan, after making a convoy from Bagram Air Base in Kabul.

"Everything happened by borders ... IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), ambushes, rocket attacks," Stavros said. As the eyes and ears as a Humvee gunner, he saw other vehicles blown up and soldiers get injured, but his section (four Humvees traveling together) came through unscathed. "You don't know where (IEDs) are. You are just driving along and they go off. We kind of lucked out, I guess.

"Combat is not pretty. There are things you shouldn't have to see," he added.

In Afghanistan, Stavros said he saw a soldier who was hit in the neck with shrapnel and another who had his leg blown off. "It's not easy to see that. But, you don't let it get to you. You have a job to do. Afterwards you reflect on it."

Stavros said that although he came through his combat experiences without any memorable scrapes, he did dole out some punishment doing his job detaining suspected terrorists.

"We did get in some hairy situations. But, all my buddies were there to do a job. They were pretty level-headed," Stavros said, hopeful that one day Osama bin Laden will be captured by U.S. forces. "We need answers. You do what you've got to do. We need to find out as much as we can to stop this terrorism problem that is going on in the world."

Armed with comparative experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan (Stavros returned for a second tour in Iraq after some urban warfare training with the Israeli Army along the border of the Gaza Strip in March), Stavros said as a Marine he discussed U.S. foreign policy with his buddies.

"We did talk about what is going on in the world," he said, explaining that he has struggled with the U.S. decision to go to war in Iraq. "Afghanistan, no. I know exactly why we went in—because of 9/11. In Iraq, I think we could have waited. We probably should have waited until Afghanistan was over. Now we're kind of in some deep shit—excuse my language. We weren't expecting what's going on now. We're not fighting conventional forces anymore. Terrorists have no rules. We have to go by the Geneva Conventions. We wear uniforms. They look like civilians. It's all urban now, all city stuff. It's real scary."

The Marine Corps, which is known for its adaptability to fight by land, sea or air at any time, has also had to adjust to the new enemy in the war on terror, Stavros said. Sometimes, four vehicle sections are broken into two vehicle groups.

"You never go in alone," he said. Stavros added that when he returned to Iraq this year he traveled with the 26th MEU, which was "Special Operations Capable," and during their stop in Israel the unit trained in a mock city environment. "They're pretty good at urban fighting."

Staging in Kuwait for his second trip to Iraq, Stavros said his unit actually unloaded twice from the U.S.S. Ashland before they finally got the call to patrol the Iraq border with Saudi Arabia for foreign terrorists trying to enter the country.

When Stavros finally returned to Iraq in July he said that the highest temperature he experienced was 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

"That was real hot," he said, but added that his unit only stayed for a month because most of the patrol activity was on the Syrian border and his unit shipped back to the U.S. in August. Stavros said he has been in North Carolina awaiting his discharge since the end of September. "I was ready to be out."

Stavros said his Marine Corps and combat experience has changed his life, but he might not recommend it for his own children.

"It depends on what is happening in the world," he said, adding that for him it was a positive experience. "I'm a totally different person from my high school days. I was a typical high school kid -- going out partying. I started getting in a lot of trouble doing stuff I shouldn't do. The Marines really straightened me out. I grew up real quick."

Stavros is one of 10 2001 Wood River High School graduates who joined the Marines.

"The recruiter must have done his job," he said.

Four of the graduates are serving until March, but the rest of the crew, who all knew each other, finished their active duty earlier this year, Stavros said.

"I would like to thank all the people who have been supportive in this country and in this valley. That helps your morale when you have people who are supportive," Stavros said, explaining that he understands people who are against the nation's war on terror. "You don't have to believe in war or support the war, but support the people who are fighting. It's a tough job and we volunteered to do it."

During his time on inactive reserve status, Stavros hopes to begin training as a firefighter, a career path he said he would have pursued if he hadn't joined the Marines, and he may also take advantage of the Montgomery GI Bill and begin a college education.

In the meantime, he will be enjoying the holiday season with his family and watching the news.

EOD, Engineers stay ‘Untouchable’ in Iraq

AL ASAD, Iraq (Dec. 1, 2005) -- In the air Wing, combat engineers don’t normally work a great deal with explosives. But, in Marine Wing Support Squadron 272, a detachment of combat engineers is working with the Untouchables’ explosive ordnance disposal Marines to change that.


Submitted by: 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story Identification #: 2005121132045
Story by Cpl. James D. Hamel

AL ASAD, Iraq (Dec. 1, 2005) -- In the air Wing, combat engineers don’t normally work a great deal with explosives. But, in Marine Wing Support Squadron 272, a detachment of combat engineers is working with the Untouchables’ explosive ordnance disposal Marines to change that.

“Basically what we do is search for mines with a two-man sweep team (using metal detectors),” said Staff Sgt. Desmond E. Washington, the staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the mine clearing detachment. If they find one, they destroy it in a safe way that eliminates the possibility of civilian casualties. If they encounter an IED, the team will call for support from EOD.

“(EOD and combat engineers) have a complimentary skill set,” said Master Sgt. Tony Aldredge, the EOD SNCOIC, and Peachtree City, Ga., native. “Typically, we don’t search for IEDs or unexploded ordnance, the engineers do. When they find it, we neutralize it.”

While rare, instances where the Untouchables of MWSS-272 are called upon for ordnance disposal can happen. In a recent mission to repair infrastructure in a local Iraqi town, the mine clearing detachment was leading the way, ensuring the road was clear of explosives so the Marines and Soldiers could accomplish the mission.

Because Wing combat engineers rarely deal with explosives, 1st Lt. Robert H. Jenkins, the combat engineer officer-in-charge, said his Marines rarely get an opportunity to train and work with explosives. The Untouchables’ EOD team has changed that, offering valuable familiarization training to their fellow Marines.

“Typically, we don’t get a lot of hands on work with explosives,” said the Limestone, Tenn., native. “But familiarization training is a valuable experience. When you’re dealing with blasting caps, you don’t want to be wrong.”

“Our approach to operations is going in the right direction,” said Aldredge. “Because we have firsthand experience with IEDs, any knowledge we can pass on can help them.”

For the Marines involved with the training, it provides an opportunity to deal with a side of their job they seldom deal with, and it lifts not only their knowledge base, but their spirits.

“It helps us out a lot,” said Washington, a native of Gary, Ind. “They get so motivated about the knowledge. We’ve got a good group of Marines and most of them haven’t seen demolition since (military occupational specialty) school.”

The cooperation between EOD and the combat engineers has raised eyebrows among some who expect a degree of competitiveness between the two.

Jenkins shrugs off that notion.

“If the relationship is not good, it’s because sometimes people (from different fields) try to assume responsibilities they shouldn’t,” he said.

Aldredge has spent a lot of time in his field, and knows the cooperation level in MWSS-272 is excellent.

“I think we respect each other’s skills and experience,” he said. “We don’t have (the animosity) because we work well together. We want to be well prepared to accomplish the mission and get the job done.”

Thieves stole something more than just trees

Marybeth LeVan is a little embarrassed about the recent report she filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office. After all, she's not sure anybody really cares that two trees were stolen from the entryway garden of her Highland Road subdivision.


[email protected]
Advocate staff writer

Marybeth LeVan is a little embarrassed about the recent report she filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office. After all, she's not sure anybody really cares that two trees were stolen from the entryway garden of her Highland Road subdivision.

She noticed the two trees were missing the weekend before Thanksgiving. She noticed partly because she's president and treasurer of the homeowners' association.

But mostly LeVan noticed because the trees were planted March 19 in a memorial ceremony for her 21-year-old son, U.S. Marine Cpl. Kyle Jason Grimes, who was killed in Iraq on Jan. 26.

Since her son died, LeVan has struggled with her grief and sadness. She has focused on her family and has reached out to the families of the other Marines killed that day. She's reached out to her neighbors. And she has been open with local media, granting the first of several interviews with The Advocate less than 24 hours after she learned the news of her son's death.

While other families choose, understandably, to grieve privately, LeVan not only tolerated questions from reporters and photographers, but welcomed them into her home and shared private thoughts and showed precious photographs for an article on military families that appeared in the July 4 edition of The Advocate.

"I'm just thankful that Kyle's not been forgotten," she said when agreeing to that interview.

When she talks about her only son, pride, grief, joy and pain are expressed openly in her voice and on her face.

He knew what he wanted to do early in life, she said. He decided while he was still in high school to join the U.S. Marine Corps, a dream LeVan has said he held since he was 5.

He loved Baton Rouge, she said, and planned to move here after completing his service with the Marines. He wanted to enroll in LSU.

Grimes was one of 30 Marines and one Navy hospital corpsman killed aboard a U.S. helicopter when it crashed in a sandstorm.

Grimes was a rifleman in the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and had been stationed in Iraq since July 2004.

When LeVan last talked to her son, it was Jan. 24, and he had made it safely through the battle at Fallujah; LeVan thought the worst was over.

On the evening of Jan. 26, the U.S. Marine Corps officially informed LeVan that her son had been killed.

LeVan has said she knew early that morning, after she saw news of a helicopter crash, that something was wrong.

"I just knew," she has said.

LeVan's only son was buried in their native Bethlehem, Pa., where Grimes' father and sister both live.

LeVan's been in Baton Rouge only about five years; she moved with her husband, Steven, and their daughter, Jackie.

There are about 48 families in the one-street, upscale subdivision. In March, the day before what would have been Grimes' 22nd birthday, the LeVans and their neighbors as well as other family and friends, including Mayor-President Kip Holden, gathered for a memorial service.

LeVan shared her pride in her son during the service, which also included a prayer from a Marine chaplain, a plaque dedication and a Marine color guard. The service also included the planting of four flowering cherry trees and four Japanese magnolias.

"Knowing we have neighbors like this is a blessing," LeVan said that day.

As the one-year anniversary of her son's death approaches, LeVan said she is doing OK, but every day is a new challenge.

"I swallow many tears every day," she writes.

When she noticed the trees were gone, she thought at first the landscaper might have removed them because they were sick.

That wasn't the case.

"I asked him if it was possible they were stolen," LeVan said. "He said it's more common than we would imagine."

She filed a report with the Sheriff's Office, even though she knows there's really nothing sheriff's deputies can do. But it's on the record now.

"I am sure the thieves have no idea of the significance of their new trees," she said, "but it would be nice to let them know."

Sonya Kimbrell covers military issues for The Advocate.

First Coast Brothers Injured In Iraq

ST. AUGUSTINE, FL -- Matthew and A.J. Anderson grew up in St. Augustine. While they were in high school, they both shared a love for the Marines. In the St. Augustine High School Class of 2004 group photograph, Matthew is even donning fatigues.


First Coast News

ST. AUGUSTINE, FL -- Matthew and A.J. Anderson grew up in St. Augustine. While they were in high school, they both shared a love for the Marines. In the St. Augustine High School Class of 2004 group photograph, Matthew is even donning fatigues.

Guidance Counselor Ginger Freemann met the two when they were much younger though.

"I think it was when Matthew was in kindergarten," Freemann recalls. "It was in Orlando. I remember when their mom brought A.J. and Matthew to my office. They were just as cute as they could be."

It turns out, by the time they brothers began high school, they had moved to St. Augustine, and so did Freemann.

Much to Freemann's surprise, she saw those same two little boys at St. Augustine High School. However this time, they were much, much taller!

Freemann says the brothers were "gung-ho Marine" and talked about the Marines all the time.

Both brothers joined the Marines, and within the past month, both have been injured in Iraq.

Their mother, Jackie Williams, now lives in North Carolina. She says she's received word that 19-year old Matthew was near and exploding device that sent shrapnel into his shoulder, leg, and hand in early November.

Williams says A.J. was blasted with shrapnel this past Saturday.

Freemann says she hates to hear that the two boys she knew were hurt, but she's so thankful they are only injured.

First Coast News

24th MEU on move again

The Marines and sailors of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit face the prospect of going anywhere when they deploy - no corner of the globe, no snow-capped peak, sprawling city or dust-blown desert is off limits (1/8)


December 01,2005

But ask the troops, and there's only one place they want to go.

"I want to deploy back to Iraq," said Cpl. Mike O'Brien, 26, with 1st Battalion, 8th Marines. "I'm ready to go back."

The MEU marked the beginning of its predeployment training with a formation ceremony Wednesday at W.P.T. Hill Field at Camp Lejeune. The entire unit, about 2,200-troops strong, came together for the first time.

And while the unit's commanding officer, Col. Ron Johnson, told the Marines and sailors that they should expect the unexpected, he did say that Iraq looms large in everyone's mind.

"We have unfinished business over there, and we expect that's where we'll be needed most," he said. "Our place we were last year was Iraq, but we'll have to prepare for any contingency possible."

The unit's last deployment, which ended in February, took the headquarters group and Marine Service Support Group 24 to Iraq's infamous "Triangle of Death" for seven months. The MEU's new landing team, 1/8, fought in the much-publicized battle of Fallujah in November 2004, and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-365 deployed to western Iraq for seven months last year.

Between now and early summer - when it's expected to replace the 22nd MEU - the MEU will conduct a number of large training exercises to fine-tune its coordination and prepare for a number of potential scenarios. They'll execute naval drills aboard the USS Iwo Jima, Nashville and Whidbey Island, the assault ships that will be carrying the MEU. An urban warfare exercise at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia will be another training highlight.

"That is the biggest challenge we have today," said Johnson of urban warfare. "In an urban area, small roadways, alleyways that are hard to move about in, with the possibility of ambush, that's a challenge.

"We found when we are over there, it doesn't matter what your job is: Every Marine and sailor is a rifleman. You could be driving a convoy one minute and in a fire fight the next."

And if Iraq is indeed one of the unit's destinations, many of the personnel would be going back for a second or third time. But that's not as important as putting together a strong team during training, Johnson said.

"The combat experience isn't as important as the cohesion of the men knowing each other," he said. "That's really what makes them sing."

But the necessity to adapt quickly to any situation is paramount, Johnson said. That was illustrated in September, when the MEU deployed south to the Gulf Coast region to aid those ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

"New Orleans was a pretty good training tool," said O'Brien. "A lot of the junior guys and new leaders got an opportunity to figure it out and practice, in a way."

O'Brien said his reasons for wanting to return to Iraq are simple.

"We still got guys over there, and that's good enough for me," he said. "There are a lot of bad people that need to be taken care of."

Near-instant delivery with MotoMail

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va.(Dec. 1, 2005) -- When Marines read letters from home, “news” is actually old because of the time it takes for normal mail to reach forward deployed areas.


Submitted by:
MCB Quantico
Story by:
Computed Name: Cpl. Susan Smith
Story Identification #:

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va.(Dec. 1, 2005) -- When Marines read letters from home, “news” is actually old because of the time it takes for normal mail to reach forward deployed areas.

But thanks to the Marine Corps Motivational Mail System, which celebrates its first anniversary Friday, deployed leathernecks can receive MotoMail within 24 hours.

Family and friends can log onto www.MotoMail.us, register for an account, type a letter and send it.

While e-mail requires the sender to know a recipient’s e-mail address, MotoMail only requires the sender know the recipient’s deployed mailing address. Unlike e-mail, the Marines do not need access to a computer, because they will receive a hard copy of the letter. The messages are downloaded, printed, sealed, sorted and delivered seven days a week from eight military postal facilities in Iraq.

“One of the most common comments that get sent in from the families and friends is that MotoMail really helped them feel like they were able to stay in touch,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Don L. McCarty, I Marine Expeditionary Force’s postal officer. “There have been several reported incidents of wives and family members trying to notify their Marines about extremely important or urgent news, and MotoMail has been able to get the news to the Marines.”

MotoMail is not open to everyone; only friends and family members may use the free service.
Many Marines thought the use of MotoMail would diminish as the communication networks for Leathernecks in Iraq has improved, McCarty said. But its usage continues to increase.

MotoMail is available for delivery to Marines in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. Many Marines deployed to these countries use MotoMail to communicate with their friends and family also serving overseas. More than 80 percent of MotoMail recipients are corporals and below in the combat arms military occupational specialties because staff noncommissioned officers and officers have more access to computers.

The motivational letters are trucked or flown on a daily basis from Iraq to Kuwait and Afghanistan, but plans are being made to establish a postal location in Afghanistan.

MotoMail is also available to Marines at sea.

“Ships can have lengthy periods of time that they don’t have access to a port to get them mail; it can be up to a couple of weeks,” McCarty said. “The ability to get MotoMail on a daily basis versus weeks is crucial to morale.”

While still in its infancy, MotoMail has big expectations for the future, with plans to expand to Djibouti, and making it accessible to troops deployed in support of national disasters, such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina relief.

By Friday, an estimated 690,000 MotoMail letters will have been sent since Dec. 2, 2004, and with the Christmas and other holidays quickly approaching, all mail traffic is expected to increase.

“Nothing can replace the parcels that our Marines will receive during the holiday season, but as the volume goes up, there is a usual slight delay in the (U.S. mail) delivery time,” McCarty said. “MotoMail will at least be able to notify our Marines that parcels are on the way and that they are in the hearts and minds of all their family and friends.”

Operation Helmet Seeks Donations to Help Protect U.S. Troops; Less Than $100 Provides a Trooper Added Comfort and Protection from Deadly Blasts

DENVER--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Dec. 1, 2005--Operation Helmet, a nonpartisan charitable organization, dedicated to providing free helmet pad upgrade kits to U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, is seeking donations this holiday season.

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Pendleton Marines learn first-hand how to deal with ‘explosive situations’

(Dec. 1, 2005) -- The Marine ‘Bomb Squad’ now has more help keeping people safe in Iraq.


Submitted by:
MCB Camp Pendleton
Story by:
Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Ray Lewis

Story Identification #:

(Dec. 1, 2005) -- The Marine ‘Bomb Squad’ now has more help keeping people safe in Iraq.

Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians recently taught 35 Base Marines how to disperse and handle crowds around a live ordnance site. These Marines can later use this training when they find themselves asked to assist EOD personnel in the field.

The Nov. 17 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Advisor’s Course showed Camp Pendleton Marines the technical aspect of ordnance disposal. Issues such as improvised explosive devices, remote operations, basic equipment questions and how K-9 units work in conjunction with technicians were addressed.

Much of the instruction was geared to give students more than just ‘common’ EOD knowledge.

“(We want) to eliminate all questions so they can do business,” said EOD officer Capt. Larry D. Miyamoto. “Questions like; ‘Why does EOD take so long?’ ‘Can’t combat engineers do the same thing?’ ‘And Why does EOD always use robots?’”

“Although it appears we do business the same way each time, each scenario or emergency response is different and requires a different thought process and decision for each IED encountered,” Miyamoto said.

“EOD techs receive extensive training on electric circuits to recognize, diagnose and render safe IEDs because IEDs can be powered by a nine volt (battery) or by a complex circuit,” Miyamoto said.

Through sights and sounds, the Marines were shown the way EOD does business.

“We show them what IEDs sound and look like so when they’re in country they won’t be distracted with what we’re doing,” said Camp Pendleton EOD technician Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Gould.

Gould said it also ‘gets the curiosity out of the way,’ so they can ‘push their guys back and get the kids out of the street.’

“It keeps EOD procedures inconspicuous and Iraqis safe,” he added.

The Marines were also shown what IEDs can be disguised as and where they can be hidden.

EOD technicians took them along a bushy trail on one of Camp Pendleton’s mountains to demonstrate how easily IEDs can be overlooked.

When the Marine left they took with them a newfound knowledge while other Marines were left with a new confidence.

Having the basic knowledge of how EOD works should benefit Marines and their subordinates, who are not accustomed to EOD procedures, said basic ordnance technician Sgt. Kirby M. Rock-Ellis.

Ramadi Insurgents Flaunt Threat

U.S. Dismisses Reported Display Of Force as Hype


By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, December 2, 2005; Page A16

BAGHDAD, Dec. 1 -- Armed fighters claiming allegiance to Abu Musab Zarqawi took to the streets of a western Iraqi provincial capital Thursday in a fleeting show aimed at intimidating Iraqi Sunni Arab leaders taking part in dialogue with U.S. Marines in a stronghold of the insurgency, provincial officials, residents and other witnesses said.

The scene -- lean figures, many in masks and dark tracksuits lugging shoulder-mounted rocket launchers or wielding AK-47 assault rifles -- reinforced what the U.S. military has acknowledged is the strong insurgent presence in the Euphrates River cities and towns of Anbar province, an overwhelmingly Sunni area near the Syrian border. The appearance of the fighters dismayed many of the residents of Ramadi, the war-blighted provincial capital.

"We are tired of the present situation," said Ahmed Hassan, a 24-year-old dentistry student at Anbar University. "The Zarqawi group has become like a worm inside our guts. We are scared of informing on them and cannot deter them or object to what they are doing. Their only language is that of killing and death, and we fear that."

The armed fighters on the streets left statements in the name of Zarqawi's group, saying their show of force was in response to negotiations between the "Sunni midgets and the stooges of the occupation forces." The statements contained pledges to kill each Sunni leader participating.

The U.S. military, which maintains Marine bases and thousands of troops on the outskirts of Ramadi, denied the accounts of unrest, saying that the city was largely calm Thursday and that insurgents were manipulating the news media. "Today I witnessed inaccurate reporting, use of unreliable sources, media using other media as sources, an active insurgent propaganda machine, and the pack journalism at its worse," Capt. Jeffrey Pool, a spokesman for the 2nd Marine Division, said in an e-mail to news organizations.

Witnesses in Ramadi said they saw some of the armed fighters instruct a journalist for an Arabic-language news outlet to report that Zarqawi's group, al Qaeda in Iraq, had taken over the entire city. The Arabic outlet by late Thursday was reporting only that the fighters had held some streets of the city center -- a description of events in line with the eyewitness accounts and reports from other news organizations. News directors for the organization did not respond to requests for comment. The news organization is not being identified for security reasons.

In Baghdad, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, denied at a news conference what he called the "spurious reports" coming out of Ramadi.

"The idea that there's this mass uprising and the insurgents took control of the city is incorrect," Lynch said. "When I hear reports about how the insurgents have taken over the town and I call the commander on the ground and he says I have no idea what you're talking about . . . ."

Numerous provincial officials, residents and witnesses in Ramadi separately reported the appearance of the armed men, however. Witnesses said they saw dozens of the fighters in the streets of the city center after about 7 a.m., and saw at least one impromptu checkpoint in which roughly 10 fighters were checking the identities of each driver.

Fighters at one roadblock abducted and later killed a city official, Mohammed Khalef, a transportation official for Ramadi, said Khalid Qaraghouli, a spokesman for the Anbar provincial government.

Mohammed Hamed, an Anbar government official, said the show of strength included "more than 200 armed men, including Arab fighters."

"There were no American Marines or government troops or policemen," Hamed said. "The insurgents were in a show of strength reminiscent of the power displays of the Saddam regime."

Hamed identified himself as a deputy governor of Anbar province. Marines said he was a tourism official in the provincial government.

Insurgents left the streets by late morning, as Marines entered in significant numbers, the witnesses said.

The U.S. military, in a sharply divergent report, said the only incident of the day was an attack by rocket-propelled grenade on a U.S.-Iraqi military observation post. There were no injuries or damage, the military said.

Marines did not immediately respond to an e-mail inquiry as to whether Marines had been present in the city center at the time of the alleged appearance of armed fighters.

Pool, the 2nd Marine Division spokesman, said its second-ranking officer and a half-dozen other officers entered Ramadi on Thursday for a meeting with tribal leaders, without incident.

Anbar province, a vast region whose population is concentrated along the Euphrates, has become a base and funnel for attackers targeting the U.S. military and the U.S.-supported Iraqi government. Since late April, Marines have led repeated offensives to try to drive out insurgents and disrupt their supply lines. The latest offensive, Operation Iron Hammer, involving 2,000 U.S. and Iraqi forces, continued Thursday across the Euphrates from the town of Hit, the Marines said.

The Marines have credited the offensives with helping persuade tribal and religious leaders in the province to join in what Marine commanders described as a breakthrough meeting Monday in Ramadi. Thursday's meeting was a follow-up session, meant by the Sunni leaders to produce a plan acceptable to the United States for withdrawing Marines from Ramadi.

The meeting played out despite the unrest reported in the town. Adnan Khamis Mihana, contacted by telephone, said he and eight other tribal leaders, clerics and former Iraqi army officers had agreed to propose creation of two brigades that would include Anbar Sunnis to secure Ramadi in the absence of U.S. troops, and agreed to ask for a timetable for U.S. withdrawal from the city.

A similar security proposal in Fallujah in early 2004 helped draw a heavy insurgent presence to that Anbar city, leading to the November 2004 assault by thousands of U.S. troops that left much of the city in rubble. The city has since been largely rebuilt.

The nine community leaders at the meeting in Ramadi pledged to kill any armed man who appeared on the streets of Ramadi after a withdrawal, Mihana said. Tribes of those men would be barred from seeking blood money or revenge, he said.

Mihana said community leaders also asked the American forces to stay away from polling sites during the Dec. 15 national elections. Brief clashes with U.S. troops present for a constitutional referendum Oct. 15 helped keep most voters at home in Ramadi, leading to only a 2 percent turnout in the city.

Asked how he expected the Zarqawi group to respond, Mihana said: "We will send them this agreement, and we will ask them to stick to what we agreed. But I don't think they will abide by it."

Residents of Ramadi, a city gutted and blighted by months of fighting between insurgents and U.S. forces, spoke bleakly.

"If today's meeting fails, then Ramadi will follow in the footsteps of Fallujah, Tall Afar and Qaim, because options for the Marines have run out," said Jamal Ali Dulaimy, a 48-year-old trader. "This is the last way out."

"I don't think today's meeting will lead to any good results," said Haifa Omar, a 30-year-old primary school teacher. "The Ramadi residents meeting here have no authority, nor any control over the situation in the city, because the real authority is in the hands of al Qaeda, who are running the city as they wish," she said. "They are looking for fighting and death like we are looking for our daily livelihood."

Separately on Thursday, a mortar landed just inside the sprawling Baghdad compound of Iraqi President Jamal Talabani, hitting what officials said was an unoccupied civilian house. There were no injuries.

Also in Baghdad, Lynch said the number of suicide bombings in November was the lowest in seven months -- 23. The U.S. military recorded 1,330 roadside bombings in November and 68 car bombings, Lynch said. He gave no casualty totals.

Correspondent Jonathan Finer and special correspondents Naseer Nouri and K.I. Ibrahim contributed to this report.

He wants to be home for Christmas - Local Marine recuperating in Maryland after injuries suffered in Iraq bombing

A North Bend man is recovering from serious injuries suffered during his second tour of duty in Iraq with his Marine unit. 1/3 Marine


by John Huether
Journal Reporter

James Crossan, a 2003 graduate of Mount Si High School, was riding in a Humvee on Nov. 19 in Haditha when an improvised explosive device, or IED, blew up on the driver's side. Crossan suffered broken bones in his foot, ankle and wrist, as well as spinal, pelvic and eye-socket fractures, leg lacerations and perforated ear drums. He was lucky. The driver was killed instantly, and a gunner was blown clear of the Humvee, breaking several bones.

Crossan has been at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland for the past week, after hospital stops in Iraq and Landstuhl, Germany.

``He's all banged up and kind of sore, but he's doing pretty good,'' his father, Barry Crossan, said Wednesday from Bethesda.

James Crossan already has undergone two surgeries, and faces at least one more, on his eye sockets, in about a week.

His hope, his dad said, is that he'll be well enough to be transferred out here by Christmas to continue his rehab -- possibly to Madigan Army Medical Center or another military hospital in the Puget Sound region.

Crossan joined the Marines two years ago, and was on his second tour in Iraq with Kilo Unit of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Division. The first time around, Crossan suffered minor wounds in the battle for Fallujah, receiving a Purple Heart. He spent seven months back home before returning to Iraq.

His father said James had told his friends that riding in vehicles in Iraq was more hazardous than regular combat.

``He was telling them all he hoped he'd never have to get in a vehicle,'' Barry Crossan recalled. ``He'd done his share of knocking down doors. In this case, they were just riding from one point to another.''

Despite his son's serious injuries, the elder Crossan offered this perspective: ``He's one of the lucky ones. He's got a few broken bones and problems with his hearing and a few other things, but nothing like some other boys here who've lost legs or arms.

``We feel pretty fortunate.''

Remember Those Who Defend Our Freedoms

On Nov. 17, I wrote a letter to the editor about what I saw as the "worst generation." Perhaps I was wrong in blaming a whole generation that I thought knew no sacrifice.


Copyright © 2005 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

On Nov. 17, I wrote a letter to the editor about what I saw as the "worst generation." Perhaps I was wrong in blaming a whole generation that I thought knew no sacrifice.

On Thanksgiving, I had dinner with a young man named Sonny. He joined the Marines and is scheduled to leave for Parris Island on Nov. 28.

On the drive home, I remembered I wanted to ask him, "Why would someone join the military in the middle of a war?" Then it hit me that it did not matter why. Here was a promising young man willing to sacrifice the comforts of home, family and friends to give his all for his country.

This might be his last Thanksgiving at home for a long time, yet he hears a greater calling. It is this calling that he and others have heard, that allows me to sit down on Thanksgiving in safety and comfort and gorge myself on delicious food.

As Christmas approaches and we run to and fro and gather again with family and friends, let's remember those who gave us the freedoms we enjoy.

I am grateful to Sonny and all those willing to sacrifice.

Bill Scott


[email protected]

Alameda Marine reservists headed for Iraq

About 150 Marine Corps reservists based in Alameda have been called to active duty as of Dec. 1.


About 150 Marine Corps reservists based in Alameda have been called to active duty as of Dec. 1.

After training early next year in Southern California, the Marines will be deployed to Western Iraq. They will be part of a military police battalion, joining other Marines from units in Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Virginia and Ohio. They will be mobilized for one year but could be on active duty up to two years.

During the past 18 months, the Alameda unit has changed its training focus from artillery to military police and security services skills.

The local unit was last activated in 1990 and deployed to Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield/ Desert Storm.

Herbert will continue to host Marines in 2006

LINCOLNTON, N.C. -- There were 13 times this season when Doug Herbert could look into his Snap-on Tools/Doug Herbert Performance Parts pit area and see several smiling faces.


by Gabrielle Stevenson, Doug Herbert Racing

LINCOLNTON, N.C. -- There were 13 times this season when Doug Herbert could look into his Snap-on Tools/Doug Herbert Performance Parts pit area and see several smiling faces.

These faces were not the usual fans, sponsors or any of the many Herbert backers that follow him around the country in the 23-event NHRA POWERade series. After four final round appearances, a career-best finish in the Top Fuel point standings (sixth place) and several passes in the 4.40-range, Herbert had plenty of smiling faces in the pit area all season.

But these faces were different.

These faces belonged to the men and women of the United States Marine Corps. Herbert played host to 13 VIP tour groups that featured nearly 100 Marines who have returned home from overseas battle in the Middle East.

"My younger sister Heather is in the Army's JAG Corps so I think I have a real appreciation for what the soldiers go through because I pay even closer attention to what's happening over there because of Heather," Herbert said. "The soldiers are doing a real tough job over there and bringing some of the Marines out to the races for a day of behind-the-scenes tours, special gifts and just in general a great day off is the least I can do to thank them for their service."

Herbert provided the special groups with tickets, access to the pit, the Snap-on Tools team haulers as well as meet-n-greet opportunities with other drivers. The program won't end this season. Herbert wants to make sure he keeps on supporting the troops.

"We have to talk about what races we can host the Marines at in 2006 because I really loved having them hanging out with our team this season," Herbert said. "It was a real positive boost for the entire organization.

"The best part was seeing the Marine flag fly from our pit area. I had every single one of the special guests sign the banner and I will treasure that forever."

The program started when Herbert started a friendship with United States Marine Corps Major Philip Toretti in 2004. Herbert invited Toretti to a race once he returned from his tour of duty overseas and the two have remained close friends ever since.

The special treatment by Herbert and the team throughout an NHRA event weekend made a lasting impression with Toretti. He approached Herbert about hosting more Marines and Herbert jumped at the chance to help out any way he could.

Toretti worked with local Marine contacts to organize the groups.

"I am not sure I can even muster the words to scratch the surface of expressing our thanks and gratitude four Doug's generosity and everything that Doug and the entire Snap-on Tools team has done for the program," Toretti said. "It still amazes me how the entire NHRA community not only accepted the program but embraced it with open arms. The whole experience has added another line to the definition of service."

Now Herbert can look forward to more visits with Marines who have made their way back home.

"It's so fun to have the Marines around because the enthusiasm they have is just infectious," Herbert said. "They are so appreciative of the deal but it's great that we can do something for them. I can't thank the soldiers enough for what they are doing for us."

Prior-service troops asked to come back

They’ve been there, done that — but the Army wants to know if they’ll do it again.

In the increasingly tough struggle to fill its ranks, the Army is contacting nearly 78,000 prior-service soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines — including about 7,000 former officers — to see if they might be interested in returning to active duty in Army green.


By Gordon Lubold
Times staff writer

Since early November, Army officials have been mailing out glossy, four-color brochures to prior-service enlisted members and officers that invite them to take another tour.

“Put your previous military experience to good use,” the brochure reads. “You’ve served our country before, and maybe you miss the adventure, camaraderie, teamwork and leadership opportunities that the military offers.”

Army officials hope the “Unity of Effort” program will pique the interest of at least 1,600 prior-service people — about 2 percent of the number being contacted.

Eligible prior-service members are particularly appealing to the Army because these people know what they’re getting into and don’t need as much training.

“That’s trained manpower you can pull back in,” Lt. Col. Roy Steed, the Army’s deputy division chief of enlisted accessions, said Nov. 23.

The Army is offering bonuses of between $5,000 and $19,000 to those willing to come back and also is loosening regulations that had required service members to re-enlist in their previous chosen career fields and accept lesser ranks to come back, Steed said.

It’s the latest effort by the Army to overcome recruiting woes that have steadily worsened as the Iraq war has gone on. The active Army, the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard all fell short of their annual recruiting goals for fiscal 2005 — the active Army by 8 percentage points.

Although the service made its active recruiting goal in October, the first month of the new fiscal year, the service likely will continue to struggle in fiscal 2006 to achieve its mission of about 80,000 recruits.

Part of the problem is that the Army has been drawing down its delayed-entry pool to shore up its recruiting efforts, a stopgap measure that cannot continue indefinitely. The delayed-entry pool is made up of individuals who have enlisted in the service but have yet to ship to boot camp, and serves as a “cushion” to help each service achieve its recruiting mission each year.

The Army began last fiscal year with a start pool that was about 18 percent filled. At the start of fiscal 2006 on Oct. 1, that had shrunk to about 12 percent.

That means the Army has far fewer enlistees on standby and recruiters increasingly must find eligible applicants, enlist them and send them to boot camp right away. Less time in the delayed-entry pool can mean higher attrition or failure rates down the road, officials have said.

Senior defense officials say the Army is the “bellwether” for recruiting because it is the largest service and bears the brunt of the mission in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

While the Army hopes such initiatives as the Unity of Effort program will help plug its manpower gaps, the program required two major personnel policy changes to make it a go.

First, the service removed the restriction that prevented former soldiers returning to service from retraining in a different skill than they were in before. Recruiting officials typically require former troops returning to service to stay in the previous field in which they were trained.

Second, the Army made it more appealing to return to military service by removing a policy under which returning former service members lost rank. Prior to the program, soldiers out of uniform for more than two years would be returned to service at one paygrade lower than where they left. Each additional six months out of service meant another grade reduction. Now, E-1s to E-5s don’t lose a stripe if they return within four years of getting out.

Army officials said the previous policy didn’t reflect the current recruiting reality.

“We were not facing these shortfalls … when we implemented that policy,” said Al Green, a former sergeant major who now is civilian chief of the Army’s recruiting policy branch.

Individuals who return to the Army under the new program do not have to go through basic training again. They even are exempt from the four-week Warrior Transition Course at Fort Knox, Ky., that has been a requirement for former airmen and sailors joining the Army under a separate “blue-to-green” initiative launched last year.

Contacting prior-service members is not the only thing the Army is doing to fill its ranks.

The service announced earlier this year that it would offer free music downloads to 18- to 25-year-olds who agreed simply to be contacted by a recruiter.

The service also is putting 1,160 more recruiters on the streets, rolling out new advertising aimed at parents, coaches and other adult “influencers” and also doubling maximum enlistment bonuses to $40,000.

Elite Marine Unit to Train Georgian Soldiers

Elite, U.S. Marine Corps U.S. Task Force is training the Georgian soldiers
who will fill more than 530 positions in Iraq.


NEWS RELEASE from United States European Command
STUTTGART, Germany, Nov. 29, 2005 — U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe will showcase the U.S. European Command's Georgia Sustainment and Stability Operations Program Task Force training program in a "capstone" event Dec. 5-10 in the Republic of Georgia.

The event aims to prove the readiness of Georgia's 22nd Light Infantry Battalion prior to its deployment to Iraq. The trained 22nd Light Infantry Battalion troops will form part of the dedicated force called for in UN Security Council Resolution 1546 to protect UN peacekeeping forces in Iraq.

The elite, U.S. Marine Corps-led 54-member U.S. task force - many members of which are veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan - is training the Georgian soldiers who will fill more than 530 positions in Iraq as part of the coalition efforts there.

A primary effect of the training program is that the new and improved Georgian Army in conjunction with U.S.-trained Georgian law enforcement are more capable of securing the Georgian boarders, keeping the Caucasus region off the ever-shrinking list of potential safe havens for terrorists.

With relatively little funding and a few U.S. troops acting only in a training capacity, the U.S. is helping its Georgian ally in the Global War on Terror to become a strong and stable nation.

This capstone exercise features fire-and-maneuver tactics using live ammunition supported by the distinct concussion of supporting mortars. The event covers military operations in an urban environment and the capture of an airfield.

As with all Marine-led operations, the Sustainment and Stability Operations Program is at the cutting edge of 21st century warfare doctrine. This program foreshadows the Foreign Military Training Unit of the newly formed Marine Special Operations Command. This new command is being added to U.S. Special Operations Command to serve alongside Army Special Forces, Air Force special operations units and Navy SEALs.

This capstone exercise illustrates how a handful of U.S. military members can professionalize a much larger unit, essentially multiplying the available force fighting the Global War on Terror.

Tensions High in Ramadi

BAGHDAD, Dec. 1 -- Tensions were high Thursday in the heavily insurgent western city of Ramadi, after officials and residents said about 250 armed fighters had held the streets for several hours after daylight. The U.S. military adamantly denied the reports.

Tensions High in Ramadi
Conflicting Reports of Fighting as Marines, Sunni Leaders Meet


By Ellen Knickmeyer and Fred Barbash
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, December 1, 2005; 11:48 AM

BAGHDAD, Dec. 1 -- Tensions were high Thursday in the heavily insurgent western city of Ramadi, after officials and residents said about 250 armed fighters had held the streets for several hours after daylight. The U.S. military adamantly denied the reports.

After the reports of the fighting were publicized, the U.S. military said there was only one insurgent attack by midday in Ramadi, a rocket-propelled grenade hitting a joint U.S.-Iraqi observation post.

Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch in Baghdad, the top U.S. spokesman here, said, "The idea that there's this mass uprising and the insurgents took control of the city is incorrect."

The apparent target of the attack, according to the reports by people in Ramadi, was a meeting between Marine officers and tribal leaders who support resistance to the U.S. presence, part of a groundbreaking series of contacts that got underway earlier this week.

U.S. Marines attended Thursday's follow-up meeting with tribal leaders without incident, Marine Capt. Jeffrey Pool, a spokesman for the Second Division, said at a U.S. base outside Ramadi.

The armed men reportedly set up roadblocks at roads leading in and out of the city and conducted their own patrols, according to the witnesses. They fired mortars at the building where the meeting was taking place as well as at U.S. bases in the area, according to wire service reports.

Authorities said U.S. troops entered the town in force about 11 a.m. and many of the armed men slipped away.

Al Qaeda in Iraq, which distributed leaflets saying it was taking over the city, said that about six of its men had been killed. There were no immediate reports on other casualties.

Ramadi is the capital of Anbar province, a Sunni Arab stronghold that includes the city of Fallujah, which is about 40 miles to the west, and has been the scene of frequent combat between insurgents and U.S. and Iraqi forces.

Khalid Qaraghouli, the media officer for the Governorate of Anbar complained about what he said was inadequate security on the part of U.S. and Iraqi forces.

"Armed men took over Ramadi for four hours today as the entire city fell in their hands, and there was not a single Marine, or any Iraqi forces inside the city for the duration of the four hour period."

He said the insurgents "set up roadblocks and arrested several residents who they accused of being spies."

Qaraghouli also said the men killed Mohammad Khalaf, the Director General of Transport for the city government. He said they forced him out of his car, tied him up and then executed him in a city street.

Mohammad Hamed, an Anbar tourism official, said "there were no American marines or government troops or policemen. The Americans found it sufficient to keep their planes flying overhead, whose roars we heard very clearly," he said.

"For more than four hours, the insurgents were in a show of strength reminiscent of the power displays of the Saddam regime."

Pool denied the reports of visible overflights by U.S. forces.

The military has a fortified garrison in Ramadi. Last week the military announced a major "disruption operation" in Ramadi involving approximately 550 Iraqi Army soldiers and U.S. Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team attached to the 2nd Marine Division.

Operation Tigers, as the military called it in a press release, was described by officials as the fourth in a series of disruption operations "executed to set the conditions for a successful Dec. 15 election in Ramadi."

The military said that since November 16, Iraqi and U.S. forces had killed or detained "numerous terrorists" and seized several weapons caches, including surface-to-air missiles, rocket-propelled grenades, rockets, mortar rounds, artillery rounds, hand grenades, landmines, small arms, small-arms ammunition and bomb-making equipment.

In other developments, two U.S. service members died of wounds suffered in combat and a Marine died in a non-hostile traffic accident, the U.S. military said Thursday. That raised the U.S. death toll for November to at least 84.

The victims included a Task Force Baghdad soldier who died of gunshot wounds received Wednesday and a Marine who died of wounds suffered the same day in Fallujah, the U.S. command said. The traffic accident involving a Marine from the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing occurred near Camp Taqaddum, 45 miles west of Baghdad, another military statement said.

Barbash reported from Washington.

Insurgents attack town

BAGHDAD (AP) - Insurgents attacked several U.S. bases and government offices with mortars and rockets Thursday before dispersing in the capital of western Iraq's Anbar province.



BAGHDAD (AP) - Insurgents attacked several U.S. bases and government offices with mortars and rockets Thursday before dispersing in the capital of western Iraq's Anbar province.

Iraq's interior minister, meanwhile, fired his top official for human rights in connection with a torture investigation.

The attacks in Ramadi occurred as local leaders and U.S. military officials were to hold their second meeting in a week at the governor's office in the city centre. The insurgents apparently tried to shell the building, but reporters inside said there was no damage.

Police Lieut. Mohammed Al-Obaidi said at least four mortar rounds fell near the U.S. base on the eastern edge of the city, but that there were no reports of casualties.

Interior Minister Bayan Jabr fired Nouri al-Nouri, the ministry's chief inspector for corruption cases and human rights violations, on the order of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, an official said on condition of anonymity. Al-Nouri, a Shiite Muslim, had been in the post since June 2004.

Al-Jaafari, a Shiite, ordered a probe into the alleged mistreatment of up to 173 detainees after U.S. forces entered a ministry lockup on Nov. 13 and found some detainees with signs of torture.

Insurgents launched mortar rounds at an auditorium in Ramadi where U.S. and Sunni Arab leaders met on Monday, the Washington Post reported earlier this week.

Residents said scores of masked gunmen, believed to be members of Jordan-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's terror group "al-Qaida in Iraq," ran into the city's streets Thursday but dispersed after launching attacks with mortars and Russian-made Katyusha rockets.

Life in Ramadi quickly returned to normal. The U.S. military said only one rocket-propelled grenade was fired at an observation post and that there were no injuries or significant damage.

The insurgents did leave behind posters and graffiti saying they were members of "al-Qaida in Iraq" and claiming responsibility for shooting down a U.S. drone, a pilotless aircraft often used for reconnaissance. There were no official reports of any downed U.S. planes.

Ramadi is the provincial capital of Anbar province, a Sunni stronghold, where clashes between insurgents and U.S. and Iraqi troops have left hundreds of people dead in the past two years.

U.S. and Iraqi troops launched a joint operation near Ramadi on Wednesday, sweeping through an area used to rig car bombs.

About 500 Iraqi troops joined 2,000 U.S. marines, soldiers and sailors in a move to clear insurgents from an area on the eastern side of the Euphrates river near Hit, 137 kilometres west of Baghdad, the U.S. command said.

The offensive came as U.S. President George W. Bush said he hoped to shift more of the military burden onto the Iraqis as part of a strategy to draw down American forces.

A military statement said the Hai Al Becker region "is suspected to be an 'al-Qaida in Iraq' safe area and base of operations for the manufacture of vehicle car bombs, roadside bombs." It described the area as a transit point for foreign fighters and Iraqi insurgents infiltrating from Syria into Iraq.

There were no reports of casualties during the first day of the operation, part of a series of sweeps through Sunni Arab towns along the Euphrates believed to be major insurgent strongholds.

Residents reached by telephone said U.S. forces warned townspeople by loudspeakers to stay in their homes for the next three days.

Two U.S. service members died of wounds suffered in combat and a marine died in a non-hostile traffic accident, the U.S. military said Thursday. At least 2,112 members of the U.S. military have died since the war began in March 2003.

Also Wednesday, a group of influential Sunni clerics called for the release of five westerners taken hostage last week, saying they should be granted their freedom as a humanitarian gesture.

The Association of Muslim Scholars, believed to have contacts with some Sunni insurgent groups, has helped mediate the release of other western captives in Iraq.

The five include four aid workers from the group Christian Peacemaker Teams: Tom Fox, 54, of Clearbrook, Va.; Norman Kember, 74, of London; James Loney, 41, of Toronto; Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, formerly of Montreal, as well as German archeologist Susanne Osthoff, 43.

On Tuesday, Al-Jazeera broadcast video of the four aid workers held by a previously unknown group calling itself the Swords of Righteousness Brigade. The group claimed they were spies working under the cover of Christian peace activists.

The Sunni association said releasing Osthoff would recognize Germany's "positive" stand toward Iraq. Germany strongly opposed the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Kidnappers have threatened to kill Osthoff and her driver, who were kidnapped Friday, unless Germany halts all contacts with the Iraqi government.

Brothers enlist for better future in Corps

MARINE CORPS RECRUITING STATION, FORT WORTH, Texas (Nov. 30, 2005) -- When April Bradford bought a used Volkswagen car years ago, she knew the faded Marine Corps sticker clinging to the rear window was a sign.


Submitted by: 8th Marine Corps District
Story Identification #: 20051130114318
Story by Sgt. Rob Henderson

MARINE CORPS RECRUITING STATION, FORT WORTH, Texas (Nov. 30, 2005) -- When April Bradford bought a used Volkswagen car years ago, she knew the faded Marine Corps sticker clinging to the rear window was a sign.

“The boys always said I should peel it off,” said April. “I knew when they were little, the Marine Corps was my boys’ destiny, so I left the sticker on there.”

Privates Christopher and Joshua Bradford, Duncanville, Texas natives, realized their destiny recently by graduating from Marine Corps Recruit Training in San Diego, Calif. Christopher graduated October 21, 2005 and Joshua graduated November 4, 2005.

“I wanted to join the Marine Corps straight out of high school, but I told (Joshua) I would wait for him if he wanted me to,” said Christopher, a 2000 graduate of Honors Academy in Dallas.

While he waited for Joshua to graduate, Christopher entered the Delayed Entry Program through Recruiting Station Dallas.

In early 2005 both young men entered Recruiting Substation Irving. Joshua was due to graduate in May, and the Bradford brothers knew the time was right to fulfill their promise to each other.

“I knew the Marine Corps had the opportunities I was looking for,” said Joshua. “It was really just a matter of timing. Once I knew I was going to graduate, we went straight to the recruiter.”

That man was Staff Sgt. Roderick L. Davis, canvassing recruiter, RSS Irving. Both Joshua and Christopher attribute their success at recruit training to Davis’ hard work to prepare them.
“Staff Sgt. Davis really helped me get in shape for boot camp physically,” said Christopher who lost 24 pounds in the DEP and another 30 while at recruit training. “He worked out with us a lot, and it really helped when I got to San Diego.”

The brothers each had different obstacles to overcome before shipping to recruit training, and they did not attend training together. Christopher went two weeks before Joshua. For Joshua, knowing his older brother had already experienced the same training helped him stay positive at recruit training.

“In the back of my mind, I knew (Christopher) had already been through whatever I was experiencing, and I kept telling myself, ‘If he can make it, so can I,’” said Joshua.
April and James Bradford, the brother’s parents, were determined to make it to San Diego for both graduations, and with the help of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7843, they did.

“The VFW made it possible for us to see both boys graduate,” said April. “We made it to Christopher’s graduation on our own, but we didn’t know how we could all go see Joshua graduate. The VFW made it possible, and they went completely on the fact that we are a Marine Corps family.”

The ranks of Bradford Marines will swell when one more brother enlists later this year. Taylor A. Bradford, a senior at Duncanville High School, will join his brothers in the Corps later this year. April has no reservations about Taylor joining after witnessing the transformation in two of her other sons.

“I’m very proud of all my boys,” said April. “I hope all three who chose the Marine Corps will grow to be very old Marines. I’d like to see them all stay in for life, because I know their opportunities as Marines will be great.”

U.S. servicemembers in Iraq reflect on stateside war debate

By Joseph Giordono, Anita Powell, Monte Morin and Andrew Tilghman, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Thursday, December 1, 2005

BAGHDAD — On the same day U.S. Rep. John Murtha sparked a renewed political debate over the war in Iraq, more than a thousand U.S. Marines were pushing through booby-trapped houses in the border town of Obeidi.

To continue reading:


Families thrilled to see soldiers return from Iraq

Frank Hardy has not had a single good night's sleep in four months. (4th ANGLICO)


By Kevin Deutsch

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Friday, December 02, 2005

Frank Hardy has not had a single good night's sleep in four months.

After his son Dan shipped out to Iraq in August, Hardy would just lie awake, picturing him roving the dark streets south of Baghdad. In his mind's eye, Dan was always in danger, always one wrong step away from death.

On Thursday night, when Hardy saw his son step off a bus with 10 other Marines in West Palm Beach, the old demons disappeared. He hugged Sgt. Dan Hardy, 28, as hard as he could. On this night, Frank would sleep like a baby.

"At any time I could have gotten a phone call saying my son's been injured or killed, and I thought about it every moment of the night," said Hardy, 52, of West Palm Beach. "He's home safe. It's the perfect evening."

The men of the 4th Air/Naval Gunfire Liaison Company who came home to ANGLICO headquarters Thursday were the last of the unit's Marines to return from Iraq. Family and friends greeted the men, who all spent between four and seven months in Iraq, with whoops and cheers. Some Marines gave long kisses to their wive's. Others hugged their parents. All found that they couldn't stop smiling.

"The first thing I want to do is take a nice hot shower," said Dan Hardy. "It was pretty intense over there, but we got the job done."

Despite the constant danger they encountered in the desert, none of the Marines came home voluntarily. When their commanding officer, Lt. Col. Greg Studds, asked for volunteers to go home three months ago, no one raised a hand. They didn't want to leave each other behind, Studds said.

"You have to live day by day there, and that definitely changed me," said Lance Cpl. Zachary Day, 20, of Royal Palm Beach. "I'm a different person then when I left."

The Marines supported the multinational division headed by the Polish Army and consisting of troops from 14 countries. Involved in various missions in the three provinces south of Baghdad, the unit's duties ranged from radioing in fire support for the other nations' armies to providing protection for convoys to giving food and goodies from home to Iraqi elderly and orphans.

Four ANGLICO Marines were wounded, but the unit saw no casualties, Studds said. The biggest danger they faced were improvised explosive devices placed along the road.

"It was just like driving down I-95, only with IED's going off on the side of the highway," Studds said.

Family and friends said that their time apart was made easier by regular communication by phone and through e-mail. Renata Korzen, 36, got a steady stream of phone calls form her husband, Staff Sgt. Greg Korzen. So when the two embraced Thursday, it didn't feel like he'd been gone 7 months.

"It wasn't that big of a deal," said Greg Korzen. "But it's nice to be here in person."

There's no guarantee that ANGLICO Marines won't return to Iraq. But for now, they plan to enjoy the holidays with family.

"This was an early Christmas gift," said Frank Hardy. "We got all the presents at once."

Broken Arrow Marines Prepare To Leave

Some Broken Arrow US Marines are reporting for duty. They'll spend up to a year away from the home front. (Anti Tank Training Co)


Some Broken Arrow US Marines are reporting for duty. They'll spend up to a year away from the home front.

26 members of the Anti Tank Training Company reserve unit will head to Iraq. The Marines reported Thursday to take care of last minute details before they leave.

They're checking out gear and updating paperwork. US Marine Sgt Matt Wilson: “you're doing a job that is needed by your country for the defense of our nation and I'm very excited to play a part in that.”

The Marines leave next week. They'll go to Boston and California for training. Then they'll head to Iraq early next year, but they will get to be home this Christmas.

Area Marines Head Back To Iraq

Despite the growing debate over withdrawing our troops from Iraq, some local marines are volunteering to return. (2/25 Fox Co)


(posted: December 1st, 7:30pm) Despite the growing debate over withdrawing our troops from Iraq, some local marines are volunteering to return.

Seventy members of Fox Company, the Albany-based marine reserve unit, have been voluntarily activated for a one year tour in the war zone. About one third of the marines are returning to Iraq two years after serving the first time.

They will be leaving Monday to join up with a New England unit at Fort Devens. Eventually, they will get desert training in California and then they will go to Iraq.

Another Tour In Iraq For Volunteer LI Reservists

(CBS) GARDEN CITY They've already had to say goodbye once when local marine reservists based in Garden City were deployed the first time to Iraq. Now, just before the holidays, they've been called to active duty once again. (2/25 h&s;)


Jennifer McLogan

(CBS) GARDEN CITY They've already had to say goodbye once when local marine reservists based in Garden City were deployed the first time to Iraq. Now, just before the holidays, they've been called to active duty once again.

Sgt Joel Ramirez tells CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan, "it has been very emotional. All the guys ask one another ‘are you really ready.’"

Nearly every single one of the 100 marines from this unit now set to return are volunteering to go back to Iraq.
Major Michael Froeder of the U.S. Marine says that the men and women of this unit come from all walks of life: college students, businesspeople, even the FDNY and NYPD.

Lance Corporal Andre Seville says that its really tough on his mom because of the proximity of the holidays she's getting tearful but understands

Lance Corporal Eugene Porcelli says it’s tough because this is the time he usually buys presents,-but a marine's duty is to improvise, adapt, and overcome.

Lance Corporal Junior Reyes adds that he did go out and buy a Christmas tree already but only a small one so his toddler son can't destroy it.
So they're filling other packs, spraying their uniforms with insecticide to combat sand lice in Iraq- and outfitting themselves with brand new gear, including updated body armor.
These marines have orders for one year but that under President Bush's recently restated plan they could remain on active duty up to 24 more months

(© MMV, CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Local Marines Called Back to Iraq

Nearly 80 Marines from Echo Company out of Harrisburg are being called back to duty in


Today the Marines went through a series of checks, one of them to make sure they have all their gear.

The unit will report to Fort Devens in Massachusetts on Monday.

The Marines will have a week off for Christmas. They won't deploy to Iraq until sometime in the Spring

Lorain, Ohio native receives Bronze Star

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Dec. 1, 2005) -- Marines often go unrecognized for the jobs they do. The faithful service, self-sacrifice, and adaptability in tough situations often go unseen. Marines don’t fight for recognition. They fight for freedom and strive to keep the band of brothers they left with safe, so they can all return home together. (2nd CEB)


Submitted by: 2nd Marine Division
Story Identification #: 2005121144316
Story by Pfc. Terrell A. Turner

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Dec. 1, 2005) -- Marines often go unrecognized for the jobs they do. The faithful service, self-sacrifice, and adaptability in tough situations often go unseen. Marines don’t fight for recognition. They fight for freedom and strive to keep the band of brothers they left with safe, so they can all return home together.

Corporal Matthew D. Palacios of Lorain, Ohio, is a prime example that these good deeds do not go unnoticed. The combat engineer with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion was awarded the Bronze Star medal with a combat distinguishing device here Nov. 22 for his actions during Operation Iraqi Freedom. “It was a bitter-sweet feeling,” said Palacios, a 2003 graduate of Loraine South View High School. “It was an honor, but I think about the other Marines in my unit that did great things and were not recognized. They went above and beyond the call of duty.”

During a combat operation, his platoon was tasked with clearing houses, destroying weapons caches and enemy forces along the western sector of the company’s area of operations near the city of Al Fajr. Palacios was part of the breach team for the assault squad of the platoon that moved to the courtyard to make entry into a targeted building. When they entered, they were under heavy fire from the enemy’s position within the building. He and two other Marines were wounded during the firefight with the insurgents as they went to take cover. An insurgent threw a grenade at the Marines, and although wounded, Palacios picked up the grenade and threw it back at the enemy. The grenade exploded around the insurgents, allowing the Marines to move quickly out of the building.

The 20-year-old doesn’t take all the credit for his success.

“A big thing that helped me was my leadership and my platoon,” Palacios explained. “My squad leader taught me everything I know about engineering and about being a Marine.”

Palacios also had the wellbeing of his fellow Marines in mind.

“We all came out there together,” Palacios said. “I wanted to go home with everyone I went to Iraq with.”

Silver Star awarded posthumously

CAMP PENDLETON – A Marine Corps captain who led his company through nearly a month of daily combat with Iraq insurgents before being killed has been posthumously awarded the Silver Star.


11:01 a.m. December 1, 2005

CAMP PENDLETON – A Marine Corps captain who led his company through nearly a month of daily combat with Iraq insurgents before being killed has been posthumously awarded the Silver Star.

The Department of the Navy awarded the medal to Capt. Patrick M. Rapicault, who was killed Nov. 15, 2004.

Rapicault's widow, Vera, is to accept the medal on behalf of her husband at a ceremony Friday afternoon at Camp Pendleton Marine Base.

Rapicault took command of the weapons company of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines in Iraq on Sept. 24, 2004 while they were engaged in combat in Ar Ramadi area.

He was the first member of the battalion to be wounded and his unit took the heaviest casualties during the daily rounds of street fighting, which included 50 firefighters and 27 ambushes involving improvised bombs.

Desert Dental fights tooth decay

CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq (Dec. 1, 2005) -- There are a small group of warriors here whose weapons aren’t your typical M-16A2 service rifle, but tools that protect just as well. Their enemy is a small one. (2nd MLG)


Submitted by: 2nd Force Service Support Group
Story Identification #: 200512162641
Story by Lance Cpl. Wayne Edmiston

CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq (Dec. 1, 2005) -- There are a small group of warriors here whose weapons aren’t your typical M-16A2 service rifle, but tools that protect just as well. Their enemy is a small one.


And they are here to stop it.

They are the members of Dental Detachment Camp Taqaddum, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) and they are here fighting tooth decay and cavities as well as providing care for other dental emergencies in Iraq.

The detachment has stepped onto the front lines to support the Marines, sailors, airmen, soldiers and Iraqi forces who play a central role in Iraq’s liberation and march toward democracy, said Navy Capt. Andrew D. Peters, Dental Detachment commander.

“We try to be the best-trained, best-prepared,” Peters said. “We maintain the operational dental readiness of the forces here in Iraq.”

The goal of the dental detachment here is 100 percent dental readiness, which means all dental needs of forces are taken care of.

“For October, our forces out here were at 93 percent dental readiness,” said Peters. “Our goal out here is to maintain readiness, and intercept any emergencies that come to us.”

“[We] ensure the quality of life and performance of the Marines in theatre,” the Allentown, Pa., native said.

One of the many challenges of working in a field environment and limited dental assets, noted Peters.

“It is a challenge having dental detachments and dental personnel spread throughout the area of operations,” Peters explained. “We rely heavily on the support of our Marine units we work with.”

Preparing units in the rear and pre-deployment training is essential to making the mission easier for the dental detachment here.

“When we are back at Camp Lejeune, we take care of all dental emergencies and ensure forces are taken care of before they come over to Iraq,” he said. “Also we train continuously to deploy in support of operations.”

Serving in Iraq offers an opportunity for the dentists and dental t