« May 2007 | Main | July 2007 »

June 30, 2007

Tortuga makes Talisman Saber 07 training a success

USS TORTUGA, Coral Sea – For more than two weeks, USS Tortuga (LSD 46) along with embarked Marines as well as Midshipmen on summer cruise have been conducting Exercise Talisman Saber 2007 (TS07) alongside their Australian counterparts.


By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brandon A. Myrick, USS Tortuga Public Affairs
posted: June 30, 2007

Tortuga Sailors began the backload of the 3d Expeditionary Brigade’s 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the ship June 28, putting a final stamp on what has been a successful scheme of maneuvers to put forces ashore in order to conduct exercise objectives.

Throughout the exercise, Tortuga Sailors operated soundly within the combined sea echelon by launching and recovering Landing Craft Air Cushions (LCACs) and handling both U.S. and Australian helicopters. The overall impact was getting people and cargo where it needed to be and showcasing interoperability between the forces, according to Tortuga’s senior leaders.

Exercise TS07, a U.S. / Australian- led joint task force operation preparing both militaries for crisis-action planning and execution of contingency operations. More than 20,000 U.S. and 12,000 Australian personnel participated in the military training exercise and each branch of the military trained together to enhance their combined and joint war fighting skills.

Tortuga Sailors trained side-by-side with the Australian military and providing an opportunity to practice working together in a combined and joint environment, test interoperability and refine procedures and doctrine.

“Training along side the Australian military was an opportunity for the Sailors to receive the training they require being on a forward-deployed ship,” said Tortuga’s Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Todd A. Lewis. “I commend ‘Team Tortuga’ for all their hard work and dedication.”

Tortuga’s well deck and flight deck were always ready to go throughout the exercise, as personnel and cargo were in constant motion. Even with the operational tempo high, Tortuga Sailors rose to the challenge—safely and proficiently.

“The evolutions were conducted safely and flawlessly throughout the entire training cycle,” said Chief Boatswain’s Mate (SW/AW) Earnest C. Pippen. “I give the credit to the training teams designated to train junior Sailors, and the junior Sailors hard work and willingness to learn.”

Highlighting the evolutions required of the ship during the exercise, was a refueling at sea with an Australian refueling vessel, sustaining Tortuga at sea and war fighting capabilities.

“Deck Department ensured the highest level of readiness while conducting the various training exercises,” said Pippen. “The crew always kept a positive attitude even with the high demands of this exercise.”

Quartermaster Seaman Kevin Bell, who was able to observe and work within combined ships movements as part of the navigation team said, “It was an honor to work with [the Australians] and I learned so much about how they operate.”

Tortuga embarked several Midshipmen who received first hand training on what a forward-deployed ship such as Tortuga does and how much work goes into a training scenario such as TS07.

“Deck Department assisted with providing us LCAC rides, small boat transfers and tours in various helicopters exercises,” said Midshipman 2nd Class Brittney Lambert. “I appreciate all their effort and I had a great time on board Tortuga.”

Exercise TS07 is designed to maintain a high level of interoperability between U.S. and Australian forces, demonstrating the U.S. and Australian commitment to their military alliance and regional security. The exercise also supports increased flexibility and readiness, which are force multipliers in winning the global war on terrorism.

USS Tortuga (LSD 46) is a dock landing ship serving under Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force 76, the Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious force. ESG 7/Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.


June 29, 2007

BLT 1/5 helo company conducts heliborne raids

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (June 29, 2007) -- Marines hit hard and hit fast. Whether attacking as a squad on foot, rolling in with a convoy of up-armored humvees, or barreling through the streets in a M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank, Marines can always be counted on to get into the fight. But when Marines are needed immediately, they take to the skies where no road block or improvised explosive device can slow them down.


June 29, 2007; Submitted on: 06/29/2007 06:19:16 PM ; Story ID#: 2007629181916
By Cpl. Scott M. Biscuiti, 11th MEU

The Marines of Company C, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit loaded up on CH-46E Sea Knight and CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopters recently conducted heliborne raids to sharpen their skills as the ground combat element’s helo company.

The company attended classes that covered everything from calling in air support to conducting sensitive site exploitation from June 25-30 at Fire Base Gloria, here. They executed two raids, one day and one night, in preparation of their upcoming deployment later this year.

For Marines like Lance Cpl. Cesar Flores, a Woodburn, Ore., native, the training served as a refresher, but for many of the Marines new to the unit, flying in a helicopter was a new experience.

“It was the first time for the company as a whole to fly into an objective and assault it,” said Flores, a rifleman with 3rd Squad, 1st Platoon.

Flores said, aside from the actual assaults, calling in air support on the radio was one of the most helpful parts of the training, and something that most junior Marines don’t know how to do.

Like most of the Marines in Company C, Flores said he enjoys being in the helo company because of the speed at which they can conduct missions.

“When we do an assault it is a hard hit,” he said. “We land fast, move fast, and leave fast.”

Though rehearsing for raids might seem monotonous, the I Marine Expeditionary Force Special Operations Training Group kept the Marines engaged with surprises at every turn.

“One of the things I didn’t experience last year were the explosions,” Flores said. “They had simulated (rocket propelled grenades) and (improvised explosive devices) going off all around us during the raids. It got me all pumped up and was a total surprise.”

Sgt. Nicholas Boire, a Minnetonka, Minn., native, said he was impressed with the high level of aggressiveness that the Marines of the company displayed during the raids and seeing the small unit leaders grow.

“Some of the positive things I saw was the fighting spirit of the Marines,” said Boire, 1st Squad Leader, 1st Platoon. “During the raids you can really see the fire team leaders coming into their own and making important decisions. They weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, kill the bad guys, clear rooms and take prisoners.”

June 28, 2007

Vet Rewrites The Law To Help Others

When Sgt. Patrick Campbell returned to law school after serving a tour in Iraq, his student lender told him that he was defaulting on his payments. Due to his deployment to Iraq, he had used up all of his permissible grace period. Unlike his non-veteran classmates, the lender was going to require Patrick to start repaying his loans the day after graduation. Finally, after writing dozens of letters and spending hours on the phone, he was told that the only way to restore his pre-deployment status would be to rewrite the laws. So he did just that. Patrick spent his final year in law school writing the Veterans Education Tuition Support Act (VETS) to help returning student-soldiers.


Paul Rieckhoff | June 28, 2007

Today that bill was introduced by Senator Sherrod Brown (OH) and Representative Susan Davis (CA). This new legislation will fix the loopholes that were punishing young Iraq vets like Patrick. The Veterans Education Tuition Support Act, or VETS Act, will:

Require colleges to refund tuition for service members who deploy (or provide future credits)

Restore veterans to their academic status when they return

Cap student loan interest payments at 6% while the student is deployed

Extend the period of time a student-soldier has to re-enroll after returning from abroad

Patrick's story is reality for the thousands of other National Guardsmen and Reservists who are also college students. For these troops, deployment poses extra financial burdens - including thousands of dollars in lost tuition and overdue student loans.

Sgt. Todd Bowers, IAVA's Director of Government Affairs, experienced this first hand. When he was activated on his second deployment to Iraq, Todd was forced to withdraw from his university only two weeks before finals. After he returned from Iraq, the school would not allow him to take his finals or finish his classes, and they refused to refund his tuition. Only after local media picked up on his story did the university permit Todd to finish his finals and complete his classes.

We at IAVA are incredibly proud of Patrick for pushing to make this bill a reality. He has shown how one motivated young veteran can make a difference. The VETS bill will help reassure men and women in uniform that serving their country opens doors to higher education, instead of closing them. Join us now in making sure it gets passed. You can learn more now at www.iava.org. Tell your members of congress that college students shouldn't be punished for deciding to serve their country.

Talisman Saber Team Effort Raises Money for Australian Veterans

ROCKHAMPTON, Australia (NNS) -- Nearly $14,000 raised through a “gold coin” fund-raiser was donated June 25 to Legacy, an Australian nonprofit veteran's charity, during a reception for Talisman Saber 2007 dignitaries in Rockhampton.


Release Date: 6/28/2007

By U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Gloria Wilson, Combined/Joint Public Affairs Rockhampton, Australia

The gold coin donations were given as part of Talisman Saber’s Open Day, when the local community met exercise participants to see equipment normally kept behind military gates.

A number of people were delighted with the amount raised.

“Legacy is a volunteer nonprofit organization that sees to the welfare of widows and dependants of deceased Australian veterans who have died as a result of war,” said Allan Fuary, Legacy representative and one of the Talisman Saber's Open Day coordinators. “The amount raised at open day was absolutely outstanding and will go to good use.”

All of the money that goes into Legacy is spent on the ground level, said Fuary. Nothing goes into the state coffers and, with volunteers doing the work, money is maximized and goes where it should -- to veterans’ families in need.

Janet Boyd, coordinator of city governance and personnel assistant to Rockhampton’s mayor, said the amount exceeded their wildest dreams. The event itself took a lot of hard work and involved everyone pitching in.

“It was a team effort,” Boyd said of the fund-raiser that involved Australians and Americans coming together. “We all made friends along the way.”

Such an effort coincides with the goal of interoperability between the two nations, which is a large part of Talisman Saber’s purpose. Rear Adm. John Hines Jr. pointed out how successful the exercise’s planning stage went in May.

“But here is where the live portion of the exercise takes place; here the important relationship building between two countries and their branches of service happens and now during the exercise is the right time,” said Hines, the U.S. Director, Combined Exercise Control Group. “A real-world event is not the time to exchange business cards.”

Business cards, however, were exchanged during the reception’s social time, when attendees mingled and got to know each other more.

“Even this event is about interoperability,” said Ian Power, Legacy treasurer.

When the evening formalities started, Royal Australian Army Brig. Gen. David McKaskill, Australian Director, Combined Exercise Control Group, helped set the stage for the official check handover. He thanked both military and civilians for their contributions to open day and to the exercise overall.

McKaskill said their combined efforts not only gave non-participants an inside view of Talisman Saber, but also helped raise money for an important cause. He said Talisman Saber participants were honored to give back to the community.

The gratitude continued as Peter Lindsey, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Defence, thanked the community and military for their commitment and support.

“Whether it’s at Open Day or in the field, we work together well and we all share the common interest of making the world a better place,” he said.

Talisman Saber 2007 is a biennial U.S.- and Australian-led joint task force exercise designed to prepare both nations for crisis action planning and execution of contingency operations and maintains a high level of interoperability between the forces, demonstrating commitment to regional security and the U.S. and Australian military alliance. The exercise also supports increased flexibility and readiness, which are force multipliers in winning the global war on terrorism.

Volleyball game marks end to reign of fear

RAWAH, Iraq (June 28, 2007) -- Some people would agree that if a sport had to be chosen which embodied freedom of oppression and represented overcoming fear of insurgency in order to continue a normal life, soccer might be the number one choice. Football, basketball and wrestling would probably be lucky enough to make the top five also.


June 28, 2007

By Cpl. Ryan C. Heiser, 2nd Marine Division

In a small town of over 20,000 people which overlooks the Euphrates River, a volleyball game marked the end of an era of fear, and the beginning of freedom for the villagers and Marines who call Rawah, Iraq their home. Iraqi civilians showed up in the dozens for the first time in months, if not years according to a local interpreter, to cheer on their local team against the Marines.

On the evening of June 16, 2007, Cpl. Christopher J. Clark, a light armored vehicle gunner with Company D, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 2, and several of the Marines in his company started a volleyball game with some of the city’s local civilians.

“It was a great experience, we knew we were safe, so we just went out there to gain their trust and have fun,” said Clark, a Livermore, Calif., native. “We want the locals to see we aren’t faceless people who invade with no hearts, we are regular guys, just like them.”

According to the players, the games gathered nearly 100 civilian spectators around the court to watch as the Marines, who had taken off all their gear for the occasion, tried to keep up with the more experienced locals.

“We had over a platoon on watch total,” said Gunnery Sgt. William J. Gwaltney, the company gunnery sergeant. “We had some guys up in over watch positions, we had others roaming around, a complete cordon, plus two LAVs nearby. And the court was one of the most defensible positions around, I think we looked at nearly a dozen different volleyball courts, but the position of this one just couldn’t have been better.”

The court was set on a small flat in the side of a bowl-like valley, cradled next to the river on the eastern edge of the city. Roads and alleys crisscrossed the high ground surrounding the valley, and the court was lit by several street lights.

“We were on patrol one night, and I just decided to stop and talk to the guys we saw playing ball,” said 1st Lt. Josh L. Schneider, a platoon commander with the company. “They said they always played at the same time, so I figured why not join them sometime. After our company and battalion commanders approved it, we went out, secured the sight, and had some fun.”

The Marines all agreed the impact on the populace was staggering once word got out of the game.

“Someone said there were over 100 people there watching, plus the ones we couldn’t see on the hills and in the nearby houses. The number one thing we have done since I’ve been here is improve public relations with the citizens of this city. We make ourselves personable, and things like this help show we have common interests, and we really are human,” said Gwaltney, a Kenosha, Wis., native.

Gwaltney went on to say the event’s success was due to human nature. He said sports and competition are the things anyone, anywhere, from any culture have in common and can enjoy and understand.

“I think this shows the populace we aren’t afraid of the bad guys, and they shouldn’t be either,” said Schneider, a Long Island, N.Y., native. “People need to know we have taken a town where insurgency ran rampant, and people were afraid to leave their houses, and turned it to the point where we can have guys in the open having fun and laughing while being surrounded by locals doing the same thing. Not one person was thinking, ‘What if...,’”

The Marines lost three of four games, to the loud cheers of the spectators, but by the reactions of the group you would think they had shut out the other team.

“I didn’t feel bad at all,” Clark said. “Those guys are out there every night for hours. We had fun, they had fun, and we even won a game, all in all I would say it was a huge success.”

At the end of the game, Gwaltney was jokingly awarded both the titles ‘Most Valuable Player’ and ‘Ball Hog.’

Some of the Marines said they look forward to playing again, and even getting the local Iraqi Police involved in the festivities.

“Next time, who knows, we may even put a few IPs on our side of the court. It might even improve our game,” said Schneider. “We are starting to transition control over to the Iraqi side of the house and showing the civilians who we really are. The more involved we get in their lives, the easier it will be for them to continue once we are gone.”

Marine leads with experience

RUTBAH, Iraq (June 28, 2007) -- The rank of corporal has great meaning for a Marine. They proudly brandish the traditional blood stripe, and must take on the great responsibility that comes with the stripe to lead junior Marines.


June 28, 2007

By Lance Cpl. Brian L. Lewis, 2nd Marine Division

For Marines from Company B, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Task Force Tarawa, one corporal is making quite an impression and showing what the true value of leadership is.
“I don’t see myself as a leader, but for some reason others seem to,” said Cpl. Travis J. Lambert, a designated marksman with the company. “I just do what I am told; no questions asked.”
Lambert provides a vital resource for the battalion by acting as a designated marksman.

“My job is similar to a sniper, but with less strenuous training,” says the Ocula, Fla., native. “I am there to provide over watch for the safety of the area, as well as acquire accurate targets, so there is less collateral damage.”

Lambert also goes beyond the call of duty, assisting on operations taking place, and often lending his experienced hand by leading patrols and missions in the area.

“It isn’t hard to lead Marines for patrols, you just have to make a mental checklist before you leave,” he said. “Checking for protective equipment, plenty of water and making sure they are in the mindset is a few of the things I remind myself to do.”

Lambert’s proactive attitude has caught the eye of many of his superiors, to which they praise highly.

“He brings so much to the table,” says 1st Sgt. Ramon B. Nash, the company first sergeant. “Just considering his job at hand, he brings vital intelligence reports about the area that allow us to keep operations running smoothly.”

Lambert, who is currently on his third tour in Iraq, has spent great amounts of time learning how to deal with certain situations, and ways to help fellow Marines deployed for their first time. He often reflects on past experiences to help lead others while on patrol.

“I remember my first deployment. Times were so much different than they are (now),” he recalls. “You constantly had to keep your head down. It was nonstop chaos.”

The war has changed much since then, but Lambert still carries himself as if he were still living in the same atmosphere as before.

"You always must keep the mindset that you are being watched, especially on patrol,” he said. “I am constantly monitoring the surroundings, constantly looking for a place to take cover in the event of an emergency, and constantly making sure that my Marines are doing the same thing.”

It is this mindset that his superiors believe will be his greatest asset as he climbs into new ranks and is put into a position to lead greater numbers of Marines.

“Since I have been part of the company, I have watched him grow tremendously,” said Nash. “Even to this day, he still asks questions and makes great effort to understand anything available to learn.”

As his deployment nears the halfway mark, Lambert looks to the future with high expectations.

“I hope that the Iraqi Army and Police can achieve a status where they can support themselves,” he said. “I’ve seen too many people lose their lives, and I hope to see it come to an end.”

Task Force Tarawa is part of Regimental Combat Team 2 located in Iraq’s western Al Anbar province.

June 26, 2007

First LAR blurs lines between culinary cultures

RAWAH, Iraq (June 26, 2007) -- The Iraqi desert has the ability to alter the perceptions of Marines, especially those who have been deployed for a long period of time. Showers are no longer part of the everyday routine, instead they become a luxury. The same happens with food; what used to be considered commonplace is transformed into the extra-ordinary, and the extra-ordinary becomes something else entirely.


June 26, 2007; Submitted on: 06/26/2007 10:21:13 AM ; Story ID#: 2007626102113
By Cpl. Ryan C. Heiser, 2nd Marine Division

Staff Sgt. Robert J. Downing and Staff Sgt. Barrett A. Kahl spent the entire day recently, learning how to transform their food services into something beyond the normal expectations. They traveled to Camp Kassam, an Iraqi Army base near Rawah, Iraq, in order to observe and help in the day’s food preparation.

“We assisted the Iraqi soldiers in a ‘VIP luncheon’,” said Kahl, the battalion field food service system chief with 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 2. “It was a traditional Iraqi dinner for the mayors of nearby cities, the regimental commander, the battalion’s commander, executive officer, and sergeant major, as well as several high ranking civilians.”

The day started at about six in the morning, when the sheep was selected and butchered, before being set to boil inside a pot on an open flame.

“We definitely learned a few things. They cook a little differently than we do. They use what the environment gives them, like wood and a hole in the ground for fire, when we would just turn a knob or switch to start cooking,” said Kahl, a Jarrettsville, Md., native.

Downing, a native of Yorkbeach, Maine, agreed, saying the experience gave him a new respect for others in his profession.

“When I see what’s going on around us, I think to myself, ‘We have a long way to go culinary-wise,’ but then after visiting their camp, it definitely gives an appreciation for the tools and supplies we have,” said Downing, who is serving on his second deployment to Iraq.

While the chicken and sheep were boiling, the two Marines spent their time learning how to make traditional Iraqi pita bread.

“To tell the truth we had a bake-off of sorts,” said Downing. “It was just for fun, to see who could make the most dough rolls the fastest. The chef who was showing us seemed like a great guy, even though I think he won.”

The competition lasted roughly ten minutes, each competitor using a different method for rolling the dough. The Iraqi chef tossed the bread between his hands, squeezing out perfect rolls in seconds, while Downing used a putty knife to cut equal portions before rolling them on the table with his palms. Though the competition was close, the Iraqi chef won by four rolls.

“It was a great experience, comparing different techniques and tools, but most importantly we learned how to prepare their style of food. To be honest, I was impressed,” said Downing.

According to the two Marines, this wasn’t just a one-time occasion, they plan on opening the boundaries between the two culinary cultures and hope it will strengthen the bond between the two groups.

“We are going to do this many more times. We even hope to bring their cooks here to watch us sometime, and we want to blur that invisible boundary between us and them. We are all here together supporting the same mission,” Kahl said. “This type of thing builds trust and communication, they see us making an effort, and as a bonus, the final product was amazing.”

The pita-bread was laid out on large bowls and topped first with rice, and then with the boiled lamb and chicken, which was also deep fried briefly, before being finished with green peppers and juices.

“It was very eye appealing, and everyone who gathered to eat raved about the food,” Kahl said.

The two Marines said after a while they forgot the cooks didn’t speak the same language.

“When it comes to culinary arts, communication is just easier because the food does the talking,” said Downing. “We weren’t in a stressed environment, and everyone was doing what they loved. I guess words weren’t really needed.”

The cooks said they will definitely be using what they learned to enhance the battalion’s eating experience in the future.

“We finally figured out the secret of their Chai tea,” said Kahl. “That alone is a huge accomplishment and will be a great addition to the dining experience.”

Marines make their presence known in Rutbah

RUTBAH, Iraq (June 26, 2007) -- Marines from Company B, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Task Force Tarawa, are leaving their mark in the hearts and minds of the citizens here.


June 26, 2007

By Lance Cpl. Brian L. Lewis, 2nd Marine Division

The company, having been in the area for only a few months, has noticed a change in the people’s attitude toward coalition forces.

“The people here are helping us out with information that is vital,” says Capt. Brent H. McClellan, the company commanding officer. “Especially, ever since the Iraqi police were put in place, we’ve had full support from them.”

The Marines have made strenuous efforts to bring safety to the area for themselves, as well as the Iraqi people.

“Bravo Company is here for one reason, a peacekeeping mission,” said 1st Sgt. Ramon M. Nash, the company first sergeant. “We are here to protect the innocent and one of our biggest concerns is to look out for not just our own, but the Iraqi people’s welfare as well.”

The company is having no trouble keeping that promise to the people, as patrols are kept on a routine basis allowing Marines to constantly be searching for anything that could bring harm to the area.

“We are looking out for them, and because of this we have been well accepted,” Nash said. “Unfortunately, we sometimes have to interrupt their daily routines for a search, for example, but they understand that it is only in their best interest.”

The mission has been highly successful since their arrival, and has only hit a few bumps along the road.

“We have received some problems in the city, but nothing I would have considered dealing with the insurgency,” McClellan said. “Rutbah, like any other city, has criminals, and I believe that is what those problems have been.”

Having met constant success, the company looks toward a bright future for the stabilization of the city and the surrounding areas.

“They main idea is hoping to turn over the entire area to the protection of the Iraqi police, who have done an amazing job, but are not quite ready,” McClellan said. “Until then, we will continue to maintain security in the area for the safety of the Iraqis.”

Task Force Tarawa is part of Regimental Combat Team 2, a Marine Corps command responsible for more than 30,000 square miles and 5,500 Marines, sailors and soldiers in Iraq’s Al Anbar Province.

Mobile PX brings smokes, smiles to Golden

COMBAT OUTPOST GOLDEN (near Kharma) Iraq (June 26, 2007) -- In a combat environment, smiles can be few and far between … especially when Marines are short on stimulants.


June 26, 2007; Submitted on: 06/29/2007 11:43:23 AM ; Story ID#: 2007629114323
By Sgt. Andy Hurt, 13th MEU

Enter the Mobile Post Exchange, which brings disposable goods, personal articles, tobacco products and high-octane beverages into forward areas where the precious commodities aren’t normally available.

Marines from Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines were recently treated to a visit from the Mobile PX, bringing with it 13th MEU disbursing Marines providing cash withdrawals for purchases.

As it brings goods to forward areas, the Mobile PX crew faces every possible danger its consumers do, including roadside bombs and ambushes. It is the effort of many moving parts to run a single mission, and the PX crew is awarded great satisfaction.

Corporal Kenneth Boyd, a vehicle operator from Combat Logistics Battalion 13, drives the PX trailer from post to post, and said the reaction upon arrival is universal.

“You can really see the Marines’ faces light up,” he said, “It makes them feel better and I really like doing my job.”

Boyd, a native of Lincoln, Ky., said the largest articles of consumption are tobacco products and energy drinks – a direct correlation between the fog of war and 24-hour combat operations.
“This is the kind of stuff that keeps them going out there,” he said.

Staff Sgt. Chandu Malapaka, offering a leadership perspective, said the reason for the visit boils down to hygiene and morale.

“We’re out here in the dust all the time, bloody noses and everything, and we need those basic necessities … It’s like a third-world country out here,” said Malapaka, BLT 3/1 admin chief.
“And at the same time, it’s nice to have the luxury items, too … Really, it’s like a piece of home they’re bringing to us.”

For more information about the warriors of BLT 3/1 and the Fighting 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, visit the Unit’s Web site at www.usmc.mil/13thmeu.

June 25, 2007

Marines make presence known, win hearts and minds

BAGHDAD — U.S. Marines continued counterinsurgency operations in Haditha Sunday in an effort to win the hearts and minds of Iraqi citizens.


Monday, 25 June 2007

"Showing a presence in the area does a lot more than people would think,” said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Joseph A. Cervantes, squad leader, 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2. “We mainly do two types of patrols, one being security patrols, which are designed to have a deterrent effect on anything that happens in the area.”

Marines assigned to 1st Sqd., 3rd Plt., conduct up to three patrols a day. Patrols allow Marines to find the enemy and learn about the populace.

“We also do ‘meet and greet’ patrols. We go out and meet the families, and we start a relationship with them,” said Cervantes. “We speak to them and get their feelings on current situations and take their suggestions on what could be done differently in the city.”

The locals warmed up to the Marines, and now talk to them regularly.

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Edward G. Martin, an automatic rifleman in the unit, said the people didn’t act this way upon their arrival late March 2007.

“They seemed a little distant and cold at first,” said Martin. “They’ve always been friendly, but you can tell we’re now winning them over. They’re beginning to trust us and (they’re) glad we’re here.”

Martin recalled a recent 16-hour operation when the Marines were welcomed with open arms by the locals.

“The people were running out and giving us cold water and allowing us to come into their houses and rest,” he added. “This is what lets me know they’re thankful.”

Due to the large amount of patrols, Marines who patrol the area have begun to recognize people in the area.

“We went firm in a house one day and the locals working there recognized us because we stopped at their house earlier in the week,” said U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Nathan A. Fanning, an automatic rifleman in the unit. “He said he remembered us because of how respectful we were with him and his property.”

The friendliness and openness are a growing trend in the region. Numerous battalions have deployed to the Haditha region and experienced daily fire fights, sniper attacks, improvised explosive device explosions, and other friction, said Martin.

“I thought at first it was going to be non-stop fighting, but I’m glad it’s not. After being here, it’s a lot more fulfilling to be helping out in the way that we are,” he said.

Cervantes believed the area has completely turned around.

“The locals used to be very standoff-ish, but now they’re a lot more vocal,” said Cervantes. “I think they’re starting to realize we sacrifice a lot to come out here and help them. They are grateful, but they would still like to see their own army move in. It would help with their national pride a lot to see the Iraqi Army out here.”

While an Iraqi battalion is deployed in the region, they are not permanently positioned in the area.

Cervantes expects it to keep getting better throughout the remainder of the deployment.

“I hope things continue to go smoothly for the rest of the time we’re out here, but I’ll just take it patrol-by-patrol and day-by-day,” said Martin.

(U.S. Marine Corps story by Cpl. Rick Nelson, Combat Correspondent)

BLT 3/1 making serious headway in CHINA SHOP

COMBAT OUTPOST GOLDEN, Al Anbar Province(June 25, 2007) -- Marines from Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, are making serious headway conducting counter-insurgency operations in support of Operation CHINA SHOP.


Submitted by: 13th MEU
Story by: Computed Name: Sgt. Andy Hurt
Story Identification #: 20076268514

Beginning June 24 elements from the battalion, including Light Armored Reconnaissance platoon and Weapons Company, began a large-scale sweep throughout Iraq’s Al Anbar Province intending to disrupt insurgent networks.

The first day of the operation turned up two large vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (car bombs) under construction in a factory, along with a handful of explosive devices already placed on roadways within the area of operations.

Continuing the sweep this morning, the BLT discovered three large weapons caches.
The first cache reportedly contained more than 121 IEDs, more than half of which were already armed. The devices included “speed bump” IEDs, often placed or buried in roads. A shallow grave was also reported in the vicinity of the cache, although battalion staff members are not certain if any human remains were found.

The second find was the largest of the three. A house search uncovered a room containing a high-explosive stack nearly three feet high draped in a United Nations flag. Battalion personnel estimate the material could have been used to construct more than 80 large IEDs. An F-18 Hornet dropped a GBU-12 (500 pound) bomb on the house, uncovering more materials which are currently being handled by Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians from Combat Logistics Battalion 13.

The third cache was discovered in a house pointed out by interpreters because a bus, reported stolen, was parked outside. In the house, Marines discovered various small arms munitions, a rocket-propelled grenade, 10 pressure plate IEDs and other bomb making material.

Lieutenant Col. Phillip W. Chandler, battalion commander, described the day’s finds as “exceptional.”

“We came here to take the accelerants away from the enemy, and that’s what we’re doing,” he said, “Each one of those devices was meant to kill a Marine or a Soldier.”

Operation CHINA SHOP is part of ongoing operations in the Al Anbar Province designed to sever insurgent supply routes and safe houses. Battalion Landing Team 3/1, the ground combat element of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, will continue operations as long as necessary to accommodate future Coalition Force capabilities in the Province.

“It was a big day,” said Chandler, “and I’m extremely proud of the boys out there.”

For more information about the warriors of Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, and the Fighting 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, visit the unit's Web site at www.usmc.mil/13thmeu.

Bride's brother, from Iraq with love; A world away with the Marine Corps but there for his sister's wedding

Devin Klein and Heidi Mauch, native Charlotteans both, married on Saturday.


[email protected]
Mon, Jun. 25, 2007

Uncle Will from Austin, Texas, flew in for the wedding at the Red Fez Shrine Club on Lake Wylie.

So did Aunt Kathy from Seattle.

Cousins Brian, Kevin and Joel drove up from Atlanta.

Everyone was there -- except for the bride's brother, Weston Mauch, a Marine lance corporal serving his second tour in Iraq.

But the Marines -- along with a band of homefront "conspirators" -- were determined to get him there some way.

The newlyweds, both 24, met a year ago at WBTV, where he's a director and she's a producer. They announced their engagement May 6.

"Heidi's family was so sad that Weston couldn't be here," said the groom's irrepressible mother and lead conspirator, Moira Quinn, an executive for Charlotte Center City Partners. "A lightbulb came on -- maybe he could be."

Easing separation pains

Hooking up troops on the battlefield with their families -- especially for significant events -- is one way volunteers across the country are helping ease separation pains.Three weeks earlier at an April event, Quinn had met Jessica Howerton, an agent manager at the telecommunications company Paetec. With Paetec's encouragement, Howerton volunteers setting up video conferences between Marines and relatives through an Internet network provided by the nonprofit Freedom Calls Foundation.

Howerton jumped at the chance to help Quinn bring Weston to the reception on a two-way video hook-up.

"I have a lot of relatives in the military, and I know it's hard on the family at home when a loved one is deployed," Howerton said. "Peoples' lives continue. Babies are born. Kids have first birthdays. It goes a long way if they can talk to and see each other."

The first issue: the Red Fez needed a powerful DSL (direct satellite link) to make the connection from Iraq. After Quinn contacted club officials, they boosted their DSL. Technical support at AT&T; was so moved by the story, they placed a rush on the installation so the link could be tested, Quinn said.

Meanwhile, she had to clue in Weston to the surprise.

Without blowing it, she sneakily got his e-mail address from Heidi. Weeks passed and she heard nothing. So she e-mailed Sgt. Maj. James Thetford, a Marine recruiter she'd met recently.

He wanted specifics about Weston's unit. She finagled from another of Heidi's brothers that Weston is assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines. So Thetford sent Quinn's request to a sergeant major in the 2/6. Hearing nothing, she called a friend, Marine Maj. Ed Moen, at Camp Lejeune and begged his help.

That was on June 14. Two days later, her request was granted.

"Anyone who saw me on Tryon Street when I got the message on my BlackBerry must have thought I was crazy," Quinn said. "There it was: If the Marine Corps said it was going to happen, it was going to happen."

A toast from Fallujah

And so it did.

A convoy drove Weston to the Chapel of Hope in Fallujah. At 6 a.m. Sunday Iraq time, 10 p.m. Saturday Charlotte time, he sat in front of a camera rehearsing his toast and waiting to see family.

What he didn't know: Internet disaster had struck at the Red Fez. The DSL link died.

"As the reception was going on, we were all frantically running around trying to get the link restored -- and not give away the surprise," Quinn said.

Yet by 10:25 p.m., as Howerton and husband Jeremy worked to resuscitate the link, Quinn took a microphone and told the reception of 200 guests what the band of conspirators had spent weeks trying to put together.

So, by cell phone, Weston talked to his family. His sister, moved to tears, got on first.

"I love you. I miss you. I can't believe I'm talking to you tonight on my wedding night," she said.

He talked to other siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles -- most from Charlotte's Steele Creek section.

His tearful mother, Lou Ann, hugged Quinn and Howerton: "Thank you for bringing my son to my daughter's wedding."

By 11:30 p.m., Weston had his orders to return to the battlefield. His sister cried all the way to her honeymoon suite at the Duke Mansion.

3/1 Pushes Through

AL ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq (June 25, 2007) -- Marines of Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines spent June 13-20 sweeping for Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and setting up observation posts during their initial push through northern Al Anbar Province.


June 25, 2007; Submitted on: 06/30/2007 08:06:47 AM ; Story ID#: 20076308647
By Lance Cpl. Timothy M. Stewman, 13th MEU

Putting in long hours and enduring the scorching Iraq heat, vehicle-mounted patrols swept up and down streets, looking for IEDs and any other potential threats to the Marines and their mission.

“It’s important when first entering a new area of operations that you become aware of your surroundings and know what you are up against as far as the enemy goes,” said Cpl. Daniel Poulsen, a mortar man with weapons platoon.

When something suspicious was discovered, the Marines cordoned off the area until Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) personnel arrived and provided security while the threat was eliminated.

“When we cordon off the threat area, it prevents any of our guys or innocent bystanders from getting hurt or killed,” said Poulsen.
Because EOD is responsible for the safe handling of ordnance in a vast battle space, it can often take hours for a possible IED to be disposed of.

As the sun goes down, the days in the desert are far from over. Battle-weary Marines set up for the night in over watch positions or observations posts that will keep eyes on the enemy. Mission accomplishment takes priority over rest, and BLT 3/1 sets a high standard while conducting counter-insurgency operations.

“It’s extremely important for us to keep watch of our surroundings during the night,” said Pvt. Jesse Dorris, weapons platoon squad automatic weapon gunner. “They will try to take advantage of limited visibility during the night so that makes over watch that much more important.”

“That’s what our goal is while we’re out here: eliminating threats and helping those who are unable to help themselves.”

As the Marines of BLT 3/1 continue operations in Al Anbar Province, the actions made during the initial push set the tone for the duration of time here.

June 24, 2007

Fallujah Patrol Finds Bombs on Ice Make Case for Exit (Update1)

June 21 (Bloomberg) -- The three U.S. Marines in Lance Corporal Justin Moyer's Humvee shook their heads at the news on their radio phone.


By Daniel Williams

Iraqi police had just found some explosives hidden in blocks of ice at an ice-making factory in Fallujah, long one of Iraq's most rebellious towns. The explosives were raw material for a roadside bomb, the Marines figured, to be provided to insurgents disguised as a delivery of ice.

``These Iraqis aren't stupid,'' said Moyer, 19, halfway into an eight-month tour of Iraq. ``They'll try anything once. Who would think to inspect ice? It's hot here. Everybody loves ice.''

A day spent with Moyer and his comrades of the Marine 6th Battalion, 2nd Regiment highlights the chronically tenuous security situation in Fallujah. The city is one of the areas targeted by President George W. Bush's 20,000-strong troop ``surge'' designed to bring security to Baghdad and western parts of Iraq this summer.

As such, it will be one of the exhibits in a military and political progress report due for delivery in September by General David Petraeus, the commander of the U.S. forces. The report may set the stage for a U.S. withdrawal over time.

Few places have resisted pacification more than Fallujah, just 45 miles (70 kilometers) west of Baghdad on the road to Syria. Insurgents here fought U.S. troops soon after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and hosted foreign fighters affiliated with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda global terror network. In 2004, U.S. forces assaulted the city twice to clean out rebels and holy warriors.

Sealed Garrison

Compared with then, the town is quiet; it's practically a sealed garrison. Hundreds of Iraqi police and members of the Iraqi army help keep Fallujah under guard. Entry is limited to residents holding special passes. Vehicles travel into the city only under police escort. At least half the population of 350,000 has fled, city officials say.

U.S. commanders say that many insurgents from Fallujah and the rest of Anbar province in Iraq's west have fled eastward to areas where Petraeus mounted a major offensive this week to root them out. The U.S. military said late yesterday it killed at least 41 insurgents in an operation codenamed ``Arrowhead Ripper'' in and around Baquba, northeast of Baghdad.

``The insurgents seek the path of less resistance,'' Colonel Richard L. Simcock, who commands the 6,000 Marines in charge of Fallujah, said in an interview. ``They try to go where we're not.''

The six-Humvee patrol was tasked with clearing main city roads of possible explosives and providing a show of force.

`Something to Look At'

``We like to be part of the scenery,'' said Lance Corporal Mitchell Penny, 21, from North Carolina. ``Give the bad guys something to look at.''

No sooner had he spoken than a distant explosion and a puff of smoke broke over the horizon to the north. The radio said a pickup truck had blown up next to a mobile-phone tower.

The convoy moved slowly down Fallujah's main boulevard. Ruined monuments from past battles lined the road: mosques with chunks out of their domes, collapsed houses, smashed storefronts.

A voice on the radio said that, due to the phone-tower explosion, all civilian car traffic in Fallujah was prohibited. Women in long black shrouds -- pious Islamic dress in much of Iraq -- walked along the roadside.

`Shouldn't Be There'

``There's a pickup truck ahead,'' said Moyer, who's from Ohio. ``Shouldn't be there.'' Penny, sitting above the Humvee in a turret, spun round and pointed a machine gun at the truck. An Iraqi police van pulled up and shooed the vehicle off the road.

The convoy pulled into a barricaded fortress for a break. Layers of barbed wire and concrete barriers protected a Marine base, a police headquarters and Iraqi army barracks, along with municipal buildings.

Two Iraqi soldiers in greenish camouflage approached. They were Shiite Muslims from the far south. Under Hussein, the Shiites were the repressed majority in Iraq. Now they control the government. Fallujah is populated by Sunni Muslims, formerly the politically dominant group.

``Fallujah, no good,'' said one of the Shiites. ``They don't like us here.'' He moved his hands outward as if shovelling forward a large ball and made a ``bam'' sound. ``They like to bomb.''

Rocket Grenade

The convoy moved back out. It passed a kebab restaurant that had reopened just two weeks ago only to shut down again after reverberations from a rocket-grenade attack on a similar Marine patrol shattered its new windows.

The convoy traced loops around the city, sticking to main roads. ``We don't go into the back alleys unless the Iraqis need us for something,'' said Lance Corporal Michael Driscoll, 20, from Connecticut, who was sitting in the back seat.

The Humvees headed out of town. A big line of trucks awaiting escort stood at Fallujah's east end.

Suddenly a big gasoline tank truck made a U-turn and appeared to be coming into the military convoy's path. Penny in the turret tried to wave it off.

``Let's not play chicken with it,' Moyer said, and Penny fired a round from his machine gun. Then another.

The truck lurched to a halt, the warning shots having caught the driver's attention.

``That's good,'' said Moyer.

On the radio, word came that no vehicle traffic was visible in Fallujah and that, by order of the Iraqi army, the ice factory was closed until further notice.

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Williams in Fallujah, Iraq, at [email protected]

June 22, 2007

Marines based in Japan, Okinawa get new leader

By Cindy Fisher, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Friday, June 22, 2007

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Marines in Japan are under new leadership after a change-of-command ceremony here Wednesday evening.

To continue reading:


Field Training Launched for Australian-U.S. Forces in Talisman Saber 07

USS ESSEX, At Sea (NNS) -- Australia and U.S. forces officially began the field training phase of Talisman Saber 2007 on June 19, transitioning from work-up-like integrated training to a combined force executing within a simulated scenario.


Story Number: NNS070622-27
Release Date: 6/22/2007 3:02:00 PM
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Adam R. Cole, Task Force 76 Public Affairs

The scenario-driven exercise will involve sea, land and air field training as well as crisis-action planning to successfully complete mission objectives.

The biennial exercise, which will bring together nearly 30,000 military personnel from both forces, is meant to improve U.S.-Australia military interoperability and in turn enhance regional stability.

According to Vice Adm. Doug Crowder, Commander U.S. 7th Fleet and the combined task force commander, the exercise is important because of the necessity for combined training in the types of missions that may be needed to sustain peace in the region.

“The United States and Australia have a long-standing relationship: we are strong allies and have a special partnership in the Pacific,” said Crowder. “This exercise is about strengthening that relationship by building personal and professional relationships between our military members. This is an incredible opportunity, to work as a combined force, developing shared warfighting proficiency needed to combat the global war on terror[ism].”

Crowder is embarked on the flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), which pulled into Sydney just prior to the beginning of the field training portion.

Involved naval assets will be 7th Fleet’s Kitty Hawk Carrier Strike Group and Expeditionary Strike Group 7, which are bringing more than 20,000 U.S. military personnel, 15 ships and 100 aircraft to the combined battle space. Australian forces participating in the exercise include 20 ships, 25 aircraft and 7,500 personnel.

The field training phase of the exercise follows what was an eight-day force integration training phase between ESG 7 ships and their respective counterparts in which the forces worked through a series of mission-focused evolutions, including air, surface and subsurface defense.

The U.S. Marine Corps’ 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade and Royal Australia Army 3rd Brigade also completed combined training and even cross-attached companies to further facilitate integration; members of 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment moving to USS Juneau (LPD 10) and members of 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade’s 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit moving to HMAS Kanimbla (LPA 51).

Prior to the force integration training, the Australia and U.S. staffs participated in a command post exercise off the coast of Japan in which the given scenario was played out in a computer-simulated format.

With both of these build-up activities, senior commanders of both forces feel that there is a high level of integration.

“I think it’s been a great learning experience for everyone involved, from the top on down, since our Soldiers are working right next to the U.S. Marines,” said Australian Army Brig. Gen. John G. Caligari, Commander of Combined Force Land Component Command, referring to the company cross deck that took place. “As we now move ashore, we’re more than prepared to complete our mission as a combined force. I feel confident in our ability to work together to achieve what is set out for us here.”

That integration was tested on the opening day of the field training exercise when a full sweep of ship-to-shore movements via a number of sea-based platforms brought U.S. Marines and their Australian Soldier counterparts to the beaches of Shoal Water Bay Training area. Helicopter insertions, assault amphibian vehicles and landing craft utilities were all utilized in the landing.

“The execution of the landing was flawless, with safety being paramount in its completion,” said Capt. Anthony J. Pachuta, commodore, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11. “It has been a true pleasure to work with our Australian counterparts thus far, due to the relationships and professional exchanges that have been fostered. Sound combined planning was the essential element to the landing, and we now turn our attention to providing the support from sea to ground forces ashore.”

Once on the ground, Marines and soldiers will continue to work in tandem out of a combined operating center and work to complete objectives side-by-side. Ships will provide logistical support to ground forces in the form of aerial sorties launched from flight-capable ships while also delivering general resources like food, water and fuel.

Senior commanders are positive that the two forces can work strongly together as a combined team, resulting in more military unity after the exercise.

“I have seen the integration firsthand during the force integration training phase and it has been phenomenal,” said Rear Adm. Carol M. Pottenger, Commander, ESG 7 and Deputy Commander, Combined Force Maritime Component Command. “As military members, we have a high level of professionalism and sense of mission, that carries through no matter what uniform we wear and for what nation we wear it. Vice Adm. Crowder stated it well: ‘By achieving training objectives here, we are more capable of achieving real world peace-sustaining objectives that may arise in the future.’”

Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force 76, the Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious force. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility in Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan. The 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade is headquartered in Okinawa, Japan.

Additional information on the exercise is available on the U.S. 7th Fleet Web site at http://www.c7f.navy.mil or through a link from the Australian Defence Force site at http://www.defence.gov.au/globalexes.cfm.

For more news from Commander, Amphibious Force, U.S. 7th Fleet, visit www.news.navy.mil/local/ctf76/.

June 21, 2007

Japan gives Iwo Jima pre-war name

TOKYO, Japan (AP) -- Japan has rechristened the island of Iwo Jima, site of one of World War II's most horrific battles, with its pre-war name in an attempt to rectify a misnomer proliferated for a half-century by such movies as Clint Eastwood's "Letters from Iwo Jima."


POSTED: 6:04 a.m. EDT, June 21, 2007

The new name, Iwo To -- pronounced "ee-woh-toh" -- is the same as that used by the island's original inhabitants and the one still preferred by residents in the area. It was adopted Monday by the Japanese Geographical Survey Institute in consultation with Japan's coast guard.

The change was championed by surviving islanders evacuated during the war, who wanted to reclaim an identity they said had been hijacked. But others said the overhaul cheapens the memory of a brutal campaign that today is inextricably linked to the words Iwo Jima.

Back in 1945, the small, volcanic island was the vortex of the fierce World War II battle immortalized by the famous photograph by Joe Rosenthal of The Associated Press showing Marines raising the American flag on the islet's Mount Suribachi.

But before the war, the isolated spit of land was called Iwo To by the 1,000 or so civilians who lived there. In Japanese, that name looks and means the same as Iwo Jima -- or Sulfur Island -- but it has a different sound.

The civilians were evacuated in 1944 as U.S. forces advanced across the Pacific. Some Japanese navy officers who moved in to fortify the island mistakenly called it Iwo Jima, and the name stuck. After the war, civilians weren't allowed to return and the island was put to exclusive military use by both the U.S. and Japan, cementing its identity.

Locals were never happy the name Iwo Jima took root.

But the last straw came this year with the release of Eastwood's "Letters from Iwo Jima" and "Flags of Our Fathers," twin war films that only reinforced the misnomer.

In March, Ogasawara, the municipality that administers Iwo To and neighboring islands, responded by adopting a resolution making Iwo To the official reading. Ogasawara residents and descendants of Iwo To evacuees petitioned the central government to follow suit.

"Though we're happy for Iwo To, which has been forgotten by history, the islanders are extremely grieved every time they hear Iwo To referred to as Iwo Jima," the local Ogasawara newspaper quoted the resolution as saying of the Eastwood movies.

The government agreed; an official map with the new name will be released September 1.

Still, Iwo Jima is the only name that clicks with most Japanese not from the remote island chain, some 1,120 kilometers (700 miles) southeast of Tokyo in the Pacific Ocean.

Even some veterans, like 84-year-old Kiyoshi Endo, who heads an association commemorating soldiers killed in the battle, feel uncomfortable about the switch.

"Naval maps have long used the name Iwo Jima," Japan's Sankei newspaper quoted Endo as saying. "We should respect that history."

Today Iwo To's only inhabitants are about 400 Japanese soldiers.

In the U.S., Maj. Gen. Fred Haynes, who was a 24-year-old captain in the regiment that raised the flag on Mount Suribachi, was surprised and upset by the news.

"Frankly, I don't like it. That name is so much a part of our tradition, our legacy," said Haynes.

Haynes, 85, heads the Combat Veterans of Iwo Jima, a group of about 600 veterans that travels back to the island every year for a reunion. He is currently working on a book about the battle called "We Walk by Faith: The Story of Combat Team 28 and the Battle of Iwo Jima." He doesn't plan to change the name.

"It was Iwo Jima to us when we took it," said Haynes. "We'll recognize whatever the Japanese want to call it but we'll stick to Iwo Jima."

The 1945 battle for Iwo Jima pitted some 100,000 U.S. troops against 22,000 Japanese deeply dug into a labyrinth of tunnels and trenches. Nearly 7,000 Americans were killed capturing the island, and fewer than 1,000 of the Japanese survived.

The Americans occupied the island after the war, and returned it to Japanese jurisdiction in 1968. The U.S. Navy still uses an Iwo To airstrip to train pilots who operate from aircraft carriers.

Japan renames Iwo Jima, upsetting vets

TOKYO — Japan has returned to using the prewar name for the island of Iwo Jima — site of one of World War II’s most horrific battles — at the urging of its original inhabitants, who want to reclaim an identity they say has been hijacked by high-profile movies like Clint Eastwood’s “Letters from Iwo Jima.”


Updated: 06/21/07 6:43 AM

The new name, Iwo To, was adopted Monday by the Japanese Geographical Survey Institute in consultation with Japan’s coast guard.

Surviving islanders evacuated in the war praised the move, but others said it cheapens the memory of a brutal campaign that today is inextricably linked to the words Iwo Jima.

Back in 1945, the small, volcanic island was the vortex of the fierce World War II battle immortalized by the famous photograph by Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press showing Marines raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi.

Retired Marine Maj. Gen. Fred Haynes, who was a 24- year-old captain in the regiment that raised the flag, was surprised and upset by news of the name change.

“Frankly, I don’t like it. That name is so much a part of our tradition, our legacy,” he said.

Haynes, 87, heads the Combat Veterans of Iwo Jima, a group of about 600 veterans that travels to the island every year for a reunion. He is writing a book about the battle called “We Walk by Faith: The Story of Combat Team 28 and the Battle of Iwo Jima.” He doesn’t plan to change the name.

“It was Iwo Jima to us when we took it,” he said. “We’ll recognize whatever the Japanese want to call it, but we’ll stick to Iwo Jima.”

Even some Japanese veterans, like Kiyoshi Endo, 84, who heads an association commemorating soldiers killed in the battle, feel uncomfortable about the switch. “Naval maps have long used the name Iwo Jima,” he said. “We should respect that history.”

Before the war, the isolated spit of land was called Iwo To by the 1,000 or so who lived there. In Japanese, that name looks and means the same as Iwo Jima — Sulfur Island — but it has a different sound.

The civilians were evacuated in 1944 as U.S. forces advanced across the Pacific. Some Japanese navy officers who moved in to fortify the island mistakenly called it Iwo Jima, and the name stuck.

After the war, civilians could not return, and the island was put to exclusive military use by both the United States and Japan, cementing its identity.

Locals were never happy the name Iwo Jima took root. But the last straw came this year with the release of Eastwood’s “Letters from Iwo Jima” and “Flags of Our Fathers,” war films that only reinforced the misnomer.

In March, Ogasawara, the municipality that administers Iwo To and neighboring islands, responded by adopting a resolution making Iwo To the official name. Ogasawara residents and descendants of Iwo To evacuees petitioned the central government to follow suit.

The government agreed; an official map with the new name will be released on Sept. 1.

Still, Iwo Jima is the only name that clicks with most Japanese who aren’t from the remote island chain, some 700 miles southeast of Tokyo.

The battle pitted 100,000 U.S. troops against 22,000 Japanese dug into a labyrinth of tunnels and trenches. Nearly 7,000 Americans died and under 1,000 Japanese survived.

Task Force 1/4 uses handheld thunder to secure Al Qa'im

CAMP AL QA'IM, Iraq - (June 21, 2007) -- “Contact from the front!” yelled Cpl. Kevin Knight, an assault team leader with Quick Reaction Force, Headquarters and Support Company, Task Force 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2.


June 21, 2007; Submitted on: 06/21/2007 11:58:00 AM ; Story ID#: 200762111580
By Cpl. Eric C. Schwartz, 2nd Marine Division

Marines dismounted from their vehicles ready to perform suppressive fire on the enemy during the sustained machine gun training and the Multiple Grenade Launcher 32, familiarization, fire and movement exercise they recently completed on the ranges at Camp Al Qa’im, Iraq.

“That was the first time I actually got to fire the M-32 (multiple grenade launcher),” Knight said.

Learning every Marine’s weapon is just as important to understanding their own during battle.

“You never know who’s going to get hurt in any given situation,” Knight said. “You have to have the confidence to use your weapon system and everyone else’s effectively.”

The M-32 MGL has many types of uses such as breaching and destroying barricades and bunkers.

“If a door is locked, we can blow a hole to create our own entry point,” Knight said.

The M32 was used for suppression fire during the exercise. Its operators were unsure, at first, how to quickly reload the weapon, but it soon became second nature to them.

“It has more control than the M-203 grenade launcher and its sight is better making it more accurate,” said Lance Cpl. Richard Rosales, a rifleman with QRF, Headquarters and Support Company, TF 1/4.

“I know I’ll do better next time I use it because I now have experience with it,” Rosales said. “You can always improve.”

Another grenadier provided suppressive fire while Rosales reloaded his M32. Knight would purposely pause firing, telling Rosales to “hurry up” adding stress to him while reloading.

“Once you get into a stressful situation, your normal job gets harder, and I want my Marines used to handling stress,” Knight said.

Grenadiers, riflemen and machine gunners all took turns firing at the targets downrange conserving ammunition but also keeping the enemy pinned down.

“That’s called ‘talking guns,’” said Pfc. Michael Cuellar, a machine gunner with QRF, H&S; Company, TF 1/4. “It’s almost like a drawn out heartbeat. You’re in the moment, times frozen and all you hear are the guns talking.”

Talking guns not only conserves ammunition but allows Marines to move toward the enemy while the suppressive fire keeps the enemy from moving.

“This keeps the enemy scared giving us the psychological advantage making them think we are bigger than we really are,” Cuellar said. “Even though we are already bigger than we really are.”

The exercise was completed with a final debrief on how everything went.

“Overall the exercise went well,” Knight said. “It could’ve been better, but it can always be better. My Marines are going to perform and that’s the way it’s always been.”

The QRF’s self-criticism and constant willingness to seek self-improvement greatly enhances their ability to complete their assigned missions.

“We’re going to complete the mission, whatever it takes,” Knight said. “We are going to eliminate whatever stands in our way.”

Many tribes in Al Anbar have joined in helping the coalition forces combat terrorism thus minimizing firefights and attacks especially in the Al Qa’im area. Knight, as well as the rest of his Marines, understands that their posture must change accordingly. However, they are always ready should the situation require it.

“We’re not fighting every day, but we’re doing whatever it takes to get the job done,” Knight said. “If that means helping the people and the Iraqi Army, then by any means necessary, that’s how we’ll do it.”

Commitment: 1st LAR Marine extends to serve tour in Iraq

COMBAT OUTPOST RAWAH, Iraq - (June 21, 2007) -- Many Marines sign up for four years of service, complete one or two tours, then get out and take the knowledge the Marine Corps has taught them into the civilian world to prosper and flourish. Others stay in for 20 years, lead thousands of Marines, and serve upward of a dozen tours of duty.


June 21, 2007; Submitted on: 06/21/2007 01:04:37 PM ; Story ID#: 200762113437
By Cpl. Ryan C. Heiser, 2nd Marine Division

There is a special breed which fits neither category. The warrior who has served his four years, completed his tours, and although he plans to get out, will carry the Corps with him forever; he just isn’t ready to do it yet. He feels he has more time left in him, so he extends his commitment, and shoulders his pack one last time for the Marines to his left and right.

Sgt. David M. Breen, a vehicle commander and squad leader with Company D, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 2, is one of these special warriors.

“I love America, I love the Corps, and I believe in the cause,” said the Kansas City, Kan., native. “I just didn’t feel like I was done and it wasn’t my time yet, so I decided to come over (to Iraq) again, play my part and do whatever I could in order to help out.”

The 25-year-old decided near the beginning of the year to extend his contract 10 months, so he could serve a third deployment in Iraq.

“The extension is a testament to Sergeant Breen’s character, it shows you what type of person, what type of leader, he really is,” said Cpl. Chris J. Pumroy, a light armored vehicle gunner in Breen’s platoon. “He did it just for us, his Marines, and it proves that he isn’t just a hard worker, he doesn’t just keep morale high, and he doesn’t just accomplish missions. He has the whole package. He is the epitome of a great Marine.”

Cpl. Thomas C. Dunn, also a LAV gunner with the platoon, agreed, “He felt like he needed to be here for us and that just proves what he is like. Words can’t describe his character nearly as well as his actions have.”

Breen, who joined the Corps right out of high school, said he feels like he is helping the country by being in Iraq.

“We all know it is a slow, ongoing process, but we are making a big difference. The Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police are stepping up, taking charge and following our example. And even though the locals like us here and feel safer, I think they would also like to see us go home, so they can resume their normal lives and continue on a better path,” Breen said.

Dunn, an Austin, Texas, native, said he learned a lot about leadership and personal responsibility from Breen.

“He truly feels for the cause. He is a great Marine and an asset not only to the Corps, but also to Iraq and its citizens. No matter where you put him, he is going to do, and has done, a great job,” said Dunn.

The Marines who look up to Breen said his commitment inspired them, and for many of the ones who have never deployed, it gave them the strength and courage to face the hardships of an overseas tour.

“He deserves to be honored for this, like so many others, and it just doesn’t happen enough. People need to understand this isn’t his job anymore, he could be at home in Kansas right now,” said Pumroy, a native of Tri-cities, Wash. “He’s not here for the money, it’s not because he plans on re-enlisting, and it’s not because he likes Iraq. He did it for his Marines, to make sure the mission gets accomplished and we all come home alive.”

7th Marines receives new commander

Col. William B. Crowe relinquished command of the 7th Marine Regiment to Col. Bryan P. McCoy, in a change of command ceremony at Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field June 1.


Thursday June 21, 2007
Combat Correspondent

With three tours in the ranks of 7th Marines, first as a captain, then lieutenant colonel and most recently as a colonel, Crowe said it is a sad day for the Crowe family and he will miss the regiment.

“This is my third tour with 7th Marines,” said Crowe. “My current tour as regimental commander began July 7, 2005.”

Crowe’s previous command tours were as commanding officer of 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, from May 2000 to May 2002 and was operations officer and CO of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, from June 1989 to June 1991.

Crowe will now take command of Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C., a position selected directly by the commandant of the Marine Corps. This will be Crowe’s second “colonel-level command,” which he says is a unique honor.

Crowe began his career in the Marine Corps when he was commissioned a second lieutenant on August 14, 1981, and was designated an infantry officer. Crowe speaks highly of his time in the Corps and of 7th Marines.

“Prepare to March,” said Crowe, reciting 7th Marines’ slogan. “Prepare to march is not a bumper sticker, it implies that this regiment and its four infantry battalions are ready to deploy combat ready forces at a moment’s notice in support of our nation,” said Crowe. “If the Marine Corps’ is America’s 911 force then 7th Marines is the Marine Corps lead, quick response regiment.”

Crowe said he enjoyed his time with 7th Marines and reflected on what he learned from his junior Marines, and from being the commanding officer.

“I have learned that the Marine Corps as an institution is strong,” said Crowe. “I have been very impressed with the officers, Staff NCOs [staff noncommissioned officers], and Marines assigned to the regiment and its battalions. They are among our best and brightest.”

“I have enjoyed watching our Marines and sailors do amazing things every day, 24/7 in Iraq,” he added. “We have four outstanding battalions, not a weak one in the pack. Each one is unique, but all are top rated units in their own right.”

As Crowe passed the command to McCoy, he commented that he was getting an outstanding regiment and that he was sad to leave his home. With an emotional goodbye, Crowe, his wife, Lynn, and two daughters, Caitlin, 19, and Amanda, 18, prepare to make their trip to D.C.

“Who would have ever thought 16 years ago that I would be given the privilege, honor and awesome responsibility to lead such a historic regiment?” said Crowe. “This is my home. This is where my heart is. Prepare to march!”

McCoy started his tour in the Marine Corps when he received a commission in May 1984. His most recent assignment was CO of 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment with which he served two combat tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

During the ceremony McCoy made a promise to the regiment and shared his thoughts on taking command.

“Marines and sailors, I couldn’t be more proud than to be among your ranks again,” said McCoy. “I promise you as your CO I will give you my very best every day.”

As both Marines assume command of different units, they both said that they were ready to take command and serve their junior Marines.

Conway: Marines too comfy at Iraq bases

By Kimberly Johnson - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Jun 21, 2007 5:57:26 EDT

Marines are getting too comfortable at their dug-in bases in Iraq, the Corps’ top officer told an audience at the Naval War College on June 13.

To continue reading:


2/6 Spartans maintain steady pace during Operation Alljah

FALLUJAH, Iraq (June 21, 2007) -- “Shukran,” an Iraqi soldier said after a Marine handed him a sandbag. “You’re welcome,” the Marine responded. Even though the two can’t completely understand each other, their comments are genuine. Taking little notice to the language barrier, their work remains steady because they are, after all, working side-by-side in 110 degree heat.


June 21, 2007; Submitted on: 06/21/2007 11:52:04 AM ; Story ID#: 200762111524
By Cpl. Joel Abshier, Regimental Combat Team 6

Over the past week, Marines with G Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, and Iraqi soldiers worked diligently together to fortify an abandoned Iraqi home that later became one of many Iraqi Police precincts in the city during Operation Alljah here June 18.

The mission of Operation Alljah was to provide stability and protection for the citizens of Fallujah. Marines worked with the Iraqi Police and Army to partition off a segment of the city and set up operational stations where Iraqi civilians come in to receive identification cards, food, reimbursements and a chance to join the one of the many neighborhood watch programs.

“Our job here is to help out the (Iraqi Police) and Iraqi Army,” said 26-year-old Sgt. Yves V. Elveus, 1st squad leader with 4th platoon, Golf Company, 2/6. “We will be at this precinct for awhile to help the transitional aspect of changing control of the city from U.S. forces to Iraqi forces. Basically we are helping them gain the upper hand.”

The purpose of the precinct is to maintain an established police force within the city. The Iraqi Army and Marines with 2/6 currently operate out of the precinct because the police force is still becoming an established entity. While together, missions will be easier for both the Marines and Iraqi forces, said 20-year-old Pfc. Dustin M. Winstead, an assaultman with 4th Platoon, Golf Company, 2/6.

“At first the (Iraqi soldiers) didn’t know what was going on,” Winstead said. “But after watching us fill sandbags and carry them up flights of stairs to place in windows and around the rooftop bunkers, they didn’t hesitate to help. They jumped right in behind us.”

When the combat engineer Marines of 4th Platoon, Combat Engineer Battalion attached to 2/6 arrived at the precinct in the middle of night, the compound was moderately prepared and equipped. Now there are bunkers, barriers and sandbags situated throughout the compound, providing much needed protection from anti-coalition forces.

“The engineers came here with pre-made posts,” said Elveus, a native of Stoughton, Mass. “They put them up on the roof for us, because that’s where the (Iraqi soldiers) will be posted. The next night they brought all the stuff we needed to finish the job here.”

Supplies given included hundreds of sandbags, which were hastily situated throughout the compound to provide suitable protection against anti-coalition forces. After fortifying the building, many Marines began to add a few luxuries.

“We made our own showers, installed air conditioners and are basically trying to make life as livable as possible while we’re here,” Winstead said. “We are going to be here for (a while) so we might as well be comfortable.”

Comfort aside, both the Iraqi forces and Marines kept their weapons loaded with rounds in the chambers, referred in the military as being condition one, in the case an escalating situation transpires.

“This is supposedly one of the hottest areas around here,” Elveus said of the reported levels of violence. “But during this operation, it’s been relatively quite. Regardless of that, everyone stayed in condition one. And when I say condition one; I am not talking just talking about our weapons, but our minds as well. We’re ready for anything.”

Conducting missions and learning from the experience of both the Iraqi Army and Golf Company Marines is something that Iraqi soldiers, like Pvt. Munther Kadem Huassen, are looking forward to in the months to come.

“This operation will help build a bridge between our two countries,” Huassen said. “This will be another victory against the insurgents here, because of the new police station. It will be good for the locals in Fallujah as well because of all the new guys who want to join the neighborhood watch. This area of the city is already becoming safer.”

A timeline for maintaining a presence at the precinct is unknown for the Marines with Golf Company; however, they will continue to perform their jobs as long as they are needed, according to Winstead, a Morristown, Tenn. native.

“I love being out here,” Winstead added. “Although this is my first time in Iraq, this is definitely a life-changing place. The unexpected can happen at any moment of any day. Being prepared and aware of our situation here is what will determine the outcome of not only this operation, but our entire deployment.”

26th MEU cleans up to come home

NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain (June 21, 2007) -- After spending six months abroad as the landing force for U.S. Naval Forces Fifth Fleet and Sixth Fleet, Marines and sailors of the 26th MEU completed their deployment with a wash down in Rota, Spain, from June 14-20.


June 21, 2007; Submitted on: 06/21/2007 03:09:17 AM ; Story ID#: 20076213917
By Cpl. Aaron J. Rock, 26th MEU

The ships of the Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group pulled into port and off-loaded all of the vehicles and equipment used during deployment.

During the seven days in port, all of the equipment was cleaned and inspected before being reloaded back onto the ships for the final trip across the Atlantic.

Paul Skinner, a Customs Border Clearance Agent for the United States government, said washdown is a very important step in the process of returning home.

"Agriculturally speaking, there are a lot of very nasty things in the world that have the potential to harm the agriculture of the U.S.," he said.

Skinner said anytime a unit is re-deploying back to the United States it must pass an agricultural inspection to make sure it doesn't bring back things like seeds, eggs or any diseases.

Although cleaning was the priority, units still took advantage of some of the recreation opportunities in the area.

The Marines and sailors, many of whom hadn't seen a liberty port in months, played soccer, softball, video games, attended a bullfight and took tours of the area in order to decompress after the long deployment at sea.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Todd L. McAllister, maintenance officer for the 26th MEU's Combat Logistics Element, Combat Logistics Batallion-26, said the washdown process went smoothly.

"The Marines worked faster than the inspector's could inspect," he said.

Some may think a unit at the end of a six month-deployment would be slacking off in its work a little. Not so, said McAllister.

"You could tell by how hard the Marines are working that they are ready to go home," he said, adding, "They know the next step after this is getting off at the beach in North Carolina."

Upon completing the cleaning and re-embarkation of the equipment, community relations projects and some much deserved recreation time, the Marines and sailors of the 26th MEU embarked their respective ships for the voyage home.

For more information, news, and video about the 26th MEU, please visit www.usmc.mil/26thmeu

June 20, 2007

Joint Rapid Airfield Construction exercise

The Joint Rapid Airfield Construction (JRAC) exercise is taking place at the Bradshaw Field Training Area as part of Exercise Talisman Sabre 07. The Bradshaw Field Training Area (BFTA) is 8700 square kilometres in size, 12 times the size of Singapore and 600km south-east of Darwin.


20 June 2007

110 Australian personnel, from the Army and RAAF, and 105 US personnel, from the Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force are taking part in the exercise which involves constructing a C17 capable airfield, with turning aprons, in less than 25 days.

Personnel involved in the exercise are using a number of new technologies to construct the airfield, including GPS location software, deployable communication systems and remote-controlled plant equipment such as bulldozers that can be operated from a distance of up to 300 metres away.

The airfield will be officially opened on the 29 June 2007, when a Royal Australian Air Force and US C17 aircraft will land on the airfield. The airfield will then be used for future exercises and activities in the BFTA.

During the JRAC exercise, US and Australian personnel exercise have also been given an introduction to survival techniques and Australian bushfoods. This training has been provided by senior local traditional landowners and local range control staff managing the BFTA. Personnel have learnt how to build a shelter, find water and have tasted bush tucker such as kangaroo tail, boab nut and barramundi.

June 19, 2007

Summer Sports rehabilitation program, to teach lifelong sports skills

ROCKVILLE, Md. -- The nation's best and bravest, those severely wounded in the
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, will participate this summer in sport
rehabilitation offered by Disabled Sports USA, its chapters and
Wounded Warrior Project. This year's summer activities for the Wounded
Warrior Disabled Sports Project will include a series of more than 30
"learn-to" clinics in cycling, golf, outrigger canoeing, kayaking, scuba, rock climbing, camping, water skiing, wake boarding, track and field, and other sports.


United States Marine Corps
Press Release
Public Affairs Office
; Patty Johnson

June 19, 2007

Advanced level training and competitions are also offered to help the
Wounded Warriors to remain active throughout their lives. Several of the wounded warriors have been certified as ski instructors and scuba divers, and some are training to be Paralympians, as a result of this program. Many have become active in local DS/USA chapter activities, once they return to civilian life.

Disabled Sports USA provides all sports programs free of charge for severely wounded service members and their families. This includes costs for transportation, special adaptive sports equipment, training from qualified instructors, lodging, meals and other costs.

"The Wounded Warrior Disabled Sports Project is truly a successful
partnership and we are honored to be able to offer severely wounded service members and their families opportunities to participate in recreational activities," stated John Melia, executive director and founder of Wounded Warrior Project.

"The road to recovery is measured in years and through the WWDSP, we will continue to grow a community of active rehabilitation to engage wounded soldiers for a lifetime," he said.

"This summer's programs will include active sports that will show our
wounded warriors they can lead active lives despite their severe wounds," said Kirk Bauer, executive director of Disabled Sports USA and a disabled Vietnam veteran.

"We will conduct programs throughout the USA, taking these deserving
service members to some fantastic venues, including kayaking and rock
climbing in Lake Tahoe's Squaw Valley, scuba diving in the Carribean, water skiing in New York, Texas and California, golfing and cycling at courses and paths near the hospitals where they are convalescing and many other activities." Bauer added.

Activities will be held for severely wounded service members rehabilitating in Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.; Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas; Balboa Naval Medical Center in San Diego California; and Veterans Hospitals in Tampa Florida and Palo Alto California. Wounded Warriors discharged from the military will also have the opportunity to continue to participate at DS/USA national and chapter programs throughout the USA, so they can maintain an active sports life.

In addition to Wounded Warrior Project, sponsors include AIG insurance, The Chart Group, Ariel Corporation, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), Moore Capital Management, Cushman & Wakefield, Trijicon, Non Commissioned Officers Association, Marine Corps Celebrity Classic, Robert Trent Jones Golf Club Charitable Foundation, General Dynamics, Battelle, SeaMobile and others.

About the Wounded Warrior Project The Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) is a non-profit organization aimed at assisting those men and women of the United States armed forces who have been severely injured during the war on terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan and other hot spots around the world. Beginning at the bedside of the severely wounded, WWP provides programs and services designated to ease the burdens
of these heroes and their families, aid in the recovery process and smooth the transition back to civilian life.

For more information, please call
(904) 296-7350 or visit www.woundedwarriorproject.org.

About Disabled Sports USA
Founded in 1967 by disabled Vietnam veterans, Disabled Sports USA provides opportunities for individuals with disabilities to gain confidence and dignity through sports, recreation and educational programs. DS/USA is a national multi-sport, multi-disability organization serving more than 60,000 youth and adults annually. A member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, DS/USA offers programs through its nationwide network of 90 community-based chapters operating in 36 states. Visit www.dsusa.org/woundedwarrior.html or (301) 217-9840 for schedules and additional information.

Wounded Warrior Disabled Sports Project 2007 Program Schedule
Free Bally Total Fitness memberships available


MASD Day on the Lake Program (AZ Alumni)
1 - 2, Carefree, AZ

CSC Invitational with Challenge Alaska (Cycling) 2, Arlington VA

Marine Corps Celebrity Invitational
6-10, Jacksonville, NC

The Endeavor Games, UCO Disabled Sports and Events (Competition and
Mentoring Opportunity)
7 - 10, Edmond, OK (Separated Veterans)

Team River Runner Colorado Kayak Clinic
16 - 24, Various Sites, CO

No Barriers Festival 2007 (SCUBA, Kayak, Rock Climbing, Cycling)
28 June - 2 July, Squaw Valley, CA

PGA Golf Training Program (Weekly, WRAMC) 2, 9, 12 - 2pm

Team River Runner Kayak Training Program Tues, 1700 at WRAMC (PT) and
Sundays, 1pm


New York Adaptive Water Sports Festival
12 - 15, New York, NY

O&P; Extremity Games
19 - 21, Orlando, FL

Team River Runner Sea Kayaking
25 - 31, St. John, Virgin Islands

DS/USA Far West Sports Camp
Sacramento CA (Alumni*)

Team River Runner Kayak Training Program Tues, 1700 at WRAMC (PT) and
Sundays, 1pm


Adaptive Water Sports Festival
4 - 5, Burden Lake, NY

Bonaire SCUBA Trip
11 - 18, Bonaire

First Swing Golf Clinic (ASF)
17, Windham NY

Aspen Wilderness Experience (Challenge Aspen)
19 - 25, Aspen CO

Team River Runner Kayak Training Program Tues, 1700 at WRAMC (PT) and
Sundays, 1pm


Kent Island Cup (Outrigger Canoe Race)
Kent Island, MD

Rochester River Challenge - CAOOI (Canoe Race)
14 - 16, Rochester NY (Alumni*)

Challenge Aspen TBI Camp (Multi Sport)
14 - 19, Aspen CO

Running Clinic

Stephen Siller Tunnel to Tower 5k Run
30, New York, NY

Team River Runner Kayak Training Program Tues, 1700 at WRAMC (PT) and
Sundays, 1pm


First Swing Golf Clinic
12, Woodmont CC, Rockville, MD

Team River Runner Kayak Training Program Tues, 1700 at WRAMC (PT) and
Sundays, 1pm

HUB Financial Golf Charities Tournament
Boston, MA (Alumni*)


Blood, Sweat, Toil and Triumph Biathlon
Washington DC

Team River Runner Kayak Training Program Tues, 1700 at WRAMC (PT) and
Sundays, 1pm


The Hartford Ski Spectacular
2 - 9, Breckenridge, CO

Team River Runner Kayak Training Program Tues, 1700 at WRAMC (PT) and
Sundays, 1pm


Adaptive Sports Association New Dimension Scholarship (multi-sport) Ongoing,
Durango CO

The following chapters of DS/USA are supporting the Project:

Ability Plus, NH
Adaptive Sports Association, CO
Adaptive Adventures, CO
Adaptive Sports Center of Crested Butte, CO Adaptive Sports Foundation, NY
Bart J. Ruggiere Adaptive Sports Center, VT Breckenridge Outdoor Education
Center, CO Cape Ability Ohana Outrigger Inc., NY Challenge Alaska, AK
Challenge Aspen, CO DS/USA Eastern Sierra, CA DS/USA Far West, CA DS/USA New
England (WMASS at Loon), NH Greek Peak Sports for the Disabled, NY Mesa
Association of Sports for the Disabled, AZ New England Handicapped Sports
Association, NH Operation Comfort, TX STRIDE, NY Team River Runner, MD UCO
Disabled Sports and Events, OK Wintergreen Adaptive Skiing, VA Wounded
Warrior Project, FL

Alumni denotes veterans no longer undergoing full time therapy at a military
medical facility.

Highlanders find success with Cave Dweller

RAWAH, Iraq (June 19, 2007) -- The Marines of 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 2, affectionately nicknamed ‘The Highlanders,’ kicked off Operation Cave Dweller on June 1, 2007, in the western Euphrates River valley.


June 19, 2007; Submitted on: 06/19/2007 11:42:15 AM ; Story ID#: 2007619114215
By Cpl. Ryan C. Heiser, 2nd Marine Division

The operation covered several areas, which were flagged by the battalion for investigation, on both the north and south sides of the river.

“We went out to search different cave systems and suspected cache sites, looking for present caches or possible places where there could be a cache in the future,” said Sgt. Alfredo Gonzales, a scout with the battalion.

The operation included several units from throughout the battalion, including: Company C, security forces, jump platoon, and the military working dogs.

“We went out to areas of interest and conducted dismounted patrols through the desert’s hills, cliffs, and rocks,” said Lance Cpl. Daniel Venegas Jr., a battalion scout.

The Marines mapped out all the caves they found, and searched the ones that were large enough to fit into. In some cases the caves were so large they couldn’t be searched; the Marines didn’t even flinch in these situations. They used explosives to safely detonate the entrances, so the cave systems couldn’t be used to store anything in the future.

“We found some deep caves that an average sized man would have no problem getting into and walking around in, those are the ones we were most worried about. We got some pictures of them and their grid locations just in case we need to reference them in the future,” said Gonzales, a native of Adelanto, Calif.

While searching through the caves, one group came across a cache which housed 30 pounds of explosive material and a 57mm rocket.

“I think we find something on just about every mission we go out on. I’d say that’s pretty successful,” said Gonzales.

While searching through the seemingly endless desert, it wasn’t uncommon for the Marines to find themselves climbing steep rock cliffs, crawling through tight caverns, or walking down a dry riverbed.

“It might seem a little tedious, and its definitely tiring being in the sun all day, but you have to remember we are out here to prevent terrorists and murderers from killing our brothers and friends,” said Venegas, a San Antonio native. “It is imperative that we take away their stuff, whatever it might be, and any possible place they may want to use to store it in the future.”

Motor T mechanics keep engine’s running

CAMP AL QA’IM, Iraq (June 19, 2007) -- Odd lights can be seen and noises can be heard daily while walking by the converted train depot where the Motor Transportation platoon with Headquarters and Support Company, Task Force 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 2, starts their daily grind of fixing vehicles before the orange glow begins rising over the desert horizon. The Motor Transportation Marines, or Motor T, work diligently, keeping TF 1/4's vehicles running safely across Al Qa’im.


June 19, 2007; Submitted on: 06/19/2007 12:24:47 PM ; Story ID#: 2007619122447
By Cpl. Eric C. Schwartz, 2nd Marine

“We stay really busy,” said Sgt. Daniel Garza, a motor transportation chief with Motor Transportation Platoon, H&S; Company, TF 1/4. “There’s always work to be done.”

Garza, along with five other mechanics, repairs all kinds of Humvee parts such as radiators, belts, air conditioning systems, and interior and exterior vehicle cosmetics.

“We are receiving a lot more trucks wanting their AC units fixed while the temperatures begin to rise,” Garza said.

The AC units keep the Marines cool inside their vehicles when the sun bakes Iraq at 110 degrees, but the units are also very important in keeping electronics running smoothly during missions.

“Good AC keeps Marines happy and happy Marines work harder,” said Cpl. Joshua Zieber, a motor transportation mechanic with Motor Transportation Platoon, H&S; Company, TF 1/4.

The trucks stay cool inside but there isn’t even a breeze in the building as sweat, mixed with dirt runs down the mechanic’s faces while the afternoon temperatures rise.

“Our days start early and we usually work about 12 to 13 hour days,” Garza said. “But if stuff is pending, we will work 24 hours non-stop.”

Vehicle repairs are placed into three echelons. Preventive Maintenance, or PM, is the first echelon. This is completed by the vehicle owner consisting of tire repair, vehicle washing and fluid replacement.

Mechanics from the TF fix vehicles in the second echelon.

“I’m responsible for vehicle inductions,” said Cpl. Jean Vazquez, Quality Control Noncommissioned Officer with Motor Transportation Platoon, H&S; Company, TF 1/4. “I make sure the vehicles actually need maintenance.”

Vazquez, along with his fellow mechanics, have a tight schedule consisting of scheduled repairing in addition to urgent repairs needing maintenance that same day.

“When they need maintenance, I find out if we can fix it or if it’s third echelon,” Vazquez said. “Third echelon repair is something large like engine replacement, and that’s completed by Combat Logistics Battalion 2.”

Vehicle drivers enjoy the streamlined efficiency of the motor transportation mechanics and appreciate the hard work put into each day’s work.

“Motor T here is great at fixing vehicles,” said Cpl. Daniel Perez, a food service specialist and up-gunner for Personal Security Detachment, H&S; Company, TF 1/4. “Our vehicle was leaking fluids, and it was fixed in less than an hour.”

The mechanics are not only craftsmen in the shop, but they can also quickly fix problems while on convoys.

“Whenever they can’t fully fix a problem right away, they are good at temporarily fixing it, so we can safely get to our destination,” Perez said.

Deciding what vehicle is second echelon and repairing vehicles isn’t the only task for the mechanics.

“I also instruct Marines and Iraqi Army how to properly maintain their vehicles,” Vazquez said.

The Iraqi Army drive hummers similar to the Marines and even with preventive maintenance, they still need serious repairs. “Marine mechanics help us put the vehicles together and teach us how to fix them,” said Cpl. Katham Jeballah, a mechanic with Headquarters Brigade, 3rd Battalion, 7th Iraqi Army Brigade.

Lights flickered on inside the old train depot while the sun set in the horizon. Darkness filled Camp Al Qa’im while the Marines of Motor T tirelessly worked into the night.

"Trucks get busted on convoys and our shop makes sure the vehicle is ready for the next convoy,” Vazquez said, “whatever it takes.”

June 18, 2007

Training center dedicated to fallen hero

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (June 1, 2007) – (June 18, 2007) -- A 15-minute drive through Fallujah, Iraq, on June 23, 2005, turned into one of the worst days in history for female U.S. Marines. A suicide bomber drove his car into a convoy, causing a massive explosion that killed three women and three men and severely burnt seven other women.


June 18, 2007; Submitted on: 06/18/2007 08:30:32 AM ; Story ID#: 200761883032
By Lance Cpl. Billy Hall, II Marine Expeditionary Force

Cpl. Ramona M. Valdez, a communications specialist with Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), was serving with the Female Search Force when she was killed in the attack while the convoy was on its way back to Camp Fallujah.

To honor the memory of the fallen Marine, the II MEF Communications Training Center was dedicated as the Valdez Training Facility during a building dedication ceremony here, June 1.

Valdez, a Purple Heart Medal recipient, was an invaluable member of the 2nd Marine Division Communication Operations Section during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Valdez’s most significant work was with Division’s Counter Improvised Explosive Device Working Group. The success of the tests conducted by CIEDWG was in a large part attributed to Valdez’s knowledge of single-channel radios.

The impact Valdez made in her field was a driving force behind the dedication of a top communications training facility.

“Her legacy will live on here for years to come,” said Col. John A. Del Colliano, the division chief for network plans and policy for Command, Control, Communications and Computers, Headquarters Marine Corps. “We’re dedicating a training facility in her honor to guarantee future Marines have the same skills and knowledge when they get to the field.”

Valdez, who joined the Marine Corps in 2002 to help support her mother, was featured on a plaque affixed near the entrance of the training facility. Valdez’s mother, Elida Valdez, was overcome with emotion as she cut the building’s ribbon and approached the newly revealed plaque.

“We have not traveled these long distances to honor a building,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Sylvain, the communications information systems chief for Marine Forces Reserve. “We pay tribute to not only Corporal Valdez but what she represents. She’s a perfect selection to not only represent the communications community but the (noncommissioned officer) corps.”

Before the ceremony concluded, the crowd witnessed the first Radio Operators Course class graduation from the newly-named Valdez Training Facility.

Communications is a rapidly growing field that has advanced significantly throughout the years. Valdez established herself as a pathfinder for future generations to learn and grow from.

“Her name will be associated at a crossroads for communications in the Marine Corps,” Del Colliano said.

Reflections on service and sacrifice

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (June 18, 2007) -- Friends, families, fellow Marines and sailors gathered to honor the service, commitment and friendship of fallen brothers of 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, May 25, who were killed in action while conducting combat operations in Iraq.


June 18, 2007; Submitted on: 06/18/2007 03:26:44 PM ; Story ID#: 2007618152644
By Pfc. Brian D. Jones, 2nd Marine Division

Behind the 2nd Marine Logistics Group headquarters building, on the grass amphitheater, in the warm sun overlooking New River, N.C., fallen Marines and a sailor of the battalion were remembered.

“It’s your memorial service…to reflect on the service and sacrifice of these young men who we stood side by side with,” said Lt. Col. William M. Jurney, the commanding officer of the battalion, addressing everyone at the memorial.

The battalion suffered a loss of 11 Marines and one Navy corpsman while fighting the violent insurgency throughout Ramadi, Iraq, on an extended nine-month tour from 2006-2007.

“They are brothers in a way few can truly understand,” Jurney said. “The nature of our shared hardships creates a special bond between our Marines and sailors like no other. I know each of these men shared that special bond and brotherhood with all these men here today.”

The young men of the battalion entered the extremely dangerous city of Ramadi where there were 70-80 firefights a week, according to Jurney.

“Their courage, bravery, commitment and selfless acts were simply amazing,” Jurney said.

By the time they were leaving Ramadi, there was barely one firefight a month to account for. Families and businesses felt safer and were returning to the city because these service members were leaving it in a better state.

“These young men and all those that stand before you made a difference,” Jurney said. “What they did mattered.”

Following Jurney’s address to the crowd, fellow Marines spoke on behalf of each fallen service member the way they remembered them:

Sgt. Julian M. Arechaga, a textbook tactical Marine, was described as the epitome of a leader that would go to any extent to train younger Marines and always made people laugh.

Sgt. Joshua J. Frazier was remembered as having contagious motivation, confidence and conviction in what he was doing and loving to help others.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher A. Anderson, a hospital corpsman, had plans to run for a political office. Loved ones felt this to be an expression of his sense of purpose and desire to serve others.

Cpl. Nicholas J. Manoukian, also known as ‘Manny’, always kept up and never once let his unit down.

Cpl. Myles C. Sebastien, also known as ‘Sea Bass’, was remembered as being positive and always being there for someone to talk to. He was very proud of his wife and family and would always be willing to share photographs of his loved ones with others.

Lance Cpl. Jon E. Bowman always had a smile on his face and strived to make everything better, one remembered. Making others happy came natural to him. He was known to say things like, “You look grumpy; let me give you a hug,” or you could be exposed to his M.C. Hammer dance that always made people laugh.

Lance Cpl. Clifford R. Collinsworth was one of the best drivers hands down, one Marine declared. The Marine recalled the story of when Collinsworth received a nerf ball in a care package and repeatedly threw it at others while yelling “nerf don’t hurt,” making everyone laugh.

Lance Cpl. Thomas P. Echols was described as quick with a smile and a joke. He was a proficient marksman and was justifiably proud to use his skills to help others.

Lance Cpl. Nathan R. Elrod was the best machine gunner, said one Marine. He was quick to share knowledge with junior Marines and always quick with a smile.

Lance Cpl. Ryan T. McCaughn had all the things it took to be a Marine at a very young age. He never complained and always smiled. Anytime you were down or mad at him he would come running at you yelling, ‘ah gigadee, gigadee, gigadee,’ fondly remembered one Marine.

Lance Cpl. Michael A. Schwarz was remembered as a Marine that was not afraid to take the lead. “With all due respect Corporal, you’re married and you’re not going anywhere first,” was what Schwarz told another Marine in a time of danger. That’s the kind of Marine he was, a friend said.

Pfc. Shelby J. Feniello was thought of as a tree that no one could shake. He was always helping out where ever he could, and no task was too big for ‘the Big Poppa’.

At the end of the memorial, people gathered to recognize the sacrifices of these fallen Marines and sailor. They paid their respect and gratitude to those who fought courageously and made the ultimate sacrifice while serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“These Marines and sailors put their life on the line day-in and day-out with selflessness and courage,” Jurney said. “We want all to know that their sons and husbands were not alone. They were surrounded by men who were their bothers and loved them very much.”

Essex Conducts RAS with Sirius

USS ESSEX, At Sea (NNS) -- The Essex Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7, flagship, USS Essex (LHD 2), conducted a replenishment at sea (RAS) June 15 with the Australian Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment vessel HMAS Sirius (AOR 266).


Story Number: NNS070618-01
Release Date: 6/18/2007 11:22:00 AM
From USS Essex Public Affairs

The refueling with Sirius is part of a series of cooperative events scheduled over the next month, as the Essex ESG participates in Exercise Talisman Saber 2007 (TS07).

Essex received more than 700,000 gallons of diesel fuel from Sirius during this flawless evolution.

According to Capt. Brian T. Donegan, Essex's commanding officer, events like this highlight the interoperability of the U.S. and Australian navies.

"Today's RAS really illustrated why full-scale, live exercises like TS07 are so important to maintaining our strong alliance," Donegan said. "Reviewing books and common procedures is no substitute for putting hands on hardware and actually moving fuel."

During the four-hour evolution, the two ships steamed side-by-side, with Sirius acting as the guide ship delivering fuel to Essex.

Conducting RAS allows Essex ESG ships participating in Exercise TS07 to remain fully mission-capable and carry out assigned tasks while at sea for a prolonged period.

"We spend a lot of time training Sailors on the different positions in the replenishment process," said Master Chief Boatswain's (SW/AW) Mate David Quinn. "It's great to work with another country like Australia knowing that they train just as hard to make challenging events like this go smoothly. It gives our Sailors an opportunity to show off the pride and professionalism they have in their work."

With RAS capability, allied ships are able to transfer fuel, ammunition, supplies and other cargo from one ship to another.

Talisman Saber is a U.S.- and Australian-led Joint Task Force exercise designed to prepare both nations for crisis action planning and the execution of contingency operations. Exercise TS07 will maintain a high level of interoperability between U.S. and Australian forces, demonstrating commitment to regional security and the U.S. and Australian military alliance. The exercise also supports increased flexibility and readiness, which are force multipliers in winning the global war on terrorism.

Essex is the only forward-deployed amphibious assault ship and serves Task Force 76, the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.

For more news from USS Essex, visit www.news.navy.mil/local/lhd2/.

June 17, 2007

ON THE FRONTLINE / Cpl. JOHN MATTHEW BISHOP: The warrior's passage; Battle leads Marines to a reckoning

Northern Iraq —- "There he goes! He's moving, he's moving!" cries my gunner. From a hidden alley, a white sedan fishtails onto the road ahead, its rear window shattering as the passengers open fire with AK-47s. As the bullets spray past our Humvee, the blistered air fills with the various whines, hums and snaps of our high-velocity passage. Above, my gunner takes aim, and the fight begins.


By John Matthew Bishop
For the Journal-Constitution
Published on: 06/17/07

For many of the young men present, today's combat will be the first of their Marine Corps careers. Long have they sought this reckoning, each wondering what he would do when, deep in his psychological subterrain, he felt the grim hour being tolled. In the Corps, it's known as a "gut-check." Today, upon this blood-soaked patch of earth the sons of Western civilization must unlearn their inhibitions and kill unflinchingly, for Death has taken the field, the Valkyries are upon the air and over the hesitant and hindmost do their shadows move first.

In search of this fight, several hundred recruits from around the country join the Marine Corps infantry each month, shunning safer military jobs. From operating forklifts to repairing nuclear submarines, all service members have the opportunity to earn money for college or learn the cutting-edge skills so widely advertised in military commercials.

So why does an 18-year-old man choose the infantry? To stand face-to-face with his own mortality, to suffer the piercing gaze of Death, to understand that its terrible eyes are ultimately his own? This is why a young man chooses to come here, of all places, and to do this, of all things. As infantrymen, we revere combat as a brutal rite of passage, the culminating test of our monomaniacal, obsessive training; as human beings, we undertake it as a spiritual trial. We want combat, and we want to kill.

Today, as the fleeing gunmen open fire upon us, it appears we may get our chance. Above, the Humvee's roof shivers as my gunner's enormous .50 caliber machine-gun wades into the fray, its angry thump-thump-thump rattling the teeth in my gunner's skull. For the next 30 seconds, we tear blindly across the desert before finally emerging from the dust. The white sedan sits approximately 200 meters away with its doors ajar, and as we pull abreast of it, I discover the cause: The path has dead-ended against a large embankment. The remainder of the chase will take place on foot.

Scrambling up the embankment, I assess the situation. All four car doors were open, so the car probably contained four or five occupants, and they have two options now; they can evade us, hoping to escape, or, if bent on slaughter, they can lay an ambush. A sobering view greets us as we reach the hilltop —- sprawled before us lies a labyrinthine waterworks of numerous hills interspersed with deep irrigation canals. Whatever the fugitives opt to do, the terrain offers abundant concealment.

A comrade points wordlessly to the far side of the waterworks, which is about 300 meters wide. Everyone understands; if we hurry, we might be able to encircle them. Off we go. Over hills and through ditches we run, rifles held ready, splitting off one at a time as new paths diverge and sweeping the waterworks as thoroughly as possible in our haste. A long, narrow pipe extends across a deep canal and with no other options available, I mount it, praying I don't fall into the water below and drown under all my gear. Both narrower and longer than the training logs used back in North Carolina, the pipe might pose a problem if not for my adrenaline, which carries me over it quickly and easily. Alone now, I soon emerge on the far side of the waterworks, beyond which stretches empty farmland. As I catch my breath, my comrades emerge at various points around the perimeter, establishing a hastily thrown cordon.

The long search

Back at the abandoned car, a preliminary search uncovers a veritable arsenal in the trunk: multiple suicide-bomber vests, explosives, detonation devices, rockets, AK-47s, grenades, handguns and plenty of ammunition. Additionally, there are computers, passports and a stack of foreign currency. Everything suggests that this is a handsomely financed, well-trained team of operatives imported from abroad —- probably by al-Qaida, but potentially by any of the estimated 20 active terrorist organizations within Iraq.

The stakes are high, so without air support or K-9 teams, our platoon scours the waterworks one canal at a time, a painstaking search through tall, riparian reeds and under steep banks that continues for five grueling hours. In the 125-degree heat, wearing close to 80 pounds of equipment and with no skin exposure, it's an exhausting, dizzying ordeal.

The fruitless search continues into the evening, and as the sun lowers, so do our hopes. Perhaps they escaped before we cordoned the area; even if not, we will need a miracle to find them after dark. Nobody is giving up, though —- everyone understands the consequences of losing a team of suicide bombers. As if to punctuate our solemnity, some barefoot kids begin a game of twilight soccer in the distance, their shrieks of delight rippling through the evening air. Tomorrow, as they crowd the local marketplaces alongside siblings and mothers, they will become targets to men such as these fugitives. Boys missing limbs, girls burned into lifelong disfigurement —- innocent survivors of suicide attacks can be seen in nearly every Iraqi town. Mothers in the black garb of mourning testify to the fates of the rest.

And then something happens. Amid the children's shouting, a different cry pierces the deepening dusk, a desperate scream that means people are about to start dying. Reinforcing its grievous finality, as though charioted behind its sound, machine-guns explode into full assault about 40 meters ahead of me. Later, the Marine who discovered the gunmen would recount the eerie moment when, staring down into the water of a nearby canal, he suddenly noticed the water staring back at him —- the men were almost completely immersed and covered with mud. In an instant the nearest screamed one last time, praising Allah as all four raised their AK-47s from 20 feet away and began emptying their magazines.

I'm running toward the canal when my mind starts working again, before which my memory is blank. Everything around seems to be exploding. Enemy grenades and rockets blow towering geysers of earth into the air. Just ahead of me, across the canal, three Marines have begun darting heroically up to the canal's bank at intervals, shooting, then dropping back again as the enemy targets them. Constant, unrelenting ferocity is the primary tactic of the Marine Corps infantryman, and my comrades' methodical, coordinated waves of attack have already silenced one of the AK-47s by the time I join them on the other side of the canal.

Tearing out the safety pin of my M-67 fragmentation grenade, I wait until my mates fall back a few steps under a withering gunfire. Gleaning my intent as I signal them from across the canal, they take cover, preparing their own grenades. Seconds later, three dark spheres disappear over the lip of the canal. As though the eye of the hurricane were passing over us, all grows still and hushed in the dying light. My comrades and I prepare for the killing blow.

The concussion of the blasts thumps the ground underfoot, and then the gunmen below us are also overhead, lingering momentarily before splattering wetly down upon us. Rushing the canal, we fire a volley into the bodies below —- for insurance —- and as we lower our muzzles, the last shot echoes through the waterworks and night overtakes all.

Mean —- and 'sweet'

It's strange —- the most common occurrences here in Iraq seem somehow impossible when, recalling them, I attempt to reconcile them with fonder memories of home. Dragging cold, twisted dead men out of the muddy ditch in which we slaughtered them . . . did I —- the man who my father taught to always hold the door, the one my mother after 25 years still insists on calling her "sweet little boy" —- really do that? Did I really pacify, blindfold and curse suspected insurgents as their onlooking wives and children sobbed and wailed, begging us to stop? While I suffer no feelings of remorse owing to the unpleasant necessities of war, I sometimes lie awake wondering that this place can occupy the same world as the place I once called home, that I hold doors in one and kill children's fathers in the other.

That I will never wholly exist in either of those places, I know. For with each "gut-check" sought and found, a civilized man —- if we here may still call ourselves such —- displaces himself a little farther outside the bounds of civilized existence. The very walls of abstention and self-denial behind which he once barricaded himself, behind which he renounced his savagery —- those walls which, in their aggregate among a people, constitute the great, protective edifice of civilization itself —- do not admit re-entry to those who, discontent with a life girded, choose to stray outside.

To take the battlefield is to forevermore exist —- within the world and within one's soul —- in a state of limbo between civilization and wilderness. When the hour of reckoning is tolled, we fight, kill, and come to understand ourselves as we come to understand the world around us —- neither good nor bad, but simply wild.

For such, ultimately, is humanity —- taming itself here and there, now and then, but never completely or permanently.


Military rank: Corporal

Military branch: U.S. Marine Corps

Military occupational specialty: 0331, Machine-gunner

Current duty station: Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Theater of operations: Northern Iraq

Birthdate: Aug. 9, 1981

Birthplace: Northside Hospital, Atlanta

Age: 25

Education: North Gwinnett High School, 1996-1999, University of Georgia 1999-2004 (A.B.-English)

Contact: [email protected]

This is another installment in an occasional series of essays by Atlanta-born Cpl. John Matthew Bishop, a Marine who is serving his second tour of duty in Iraq. For operational security reasons, the exact location of where this battle occurred cannot be revealed. The firefight occurred in early May.

Hospital Corps celebrates 109th birthday

AL TAQADDUM, Iraq (June 17, 2007) -- After President William McKinley dotted the i’s June 17, 1898, the U.S. Navy’s Hospital Corps was established. One hundred and nine years later, sailors here carried out a ceremony to celebrate the birthday of one of the most decorated organizations in the military.


June 17, 2007; Submitted on: 06/19/2007 12:55:39 AM ; Story ID#: 200761905539
By Cpl. Andrew Kalwitz, 2nd Marine Logistics Group

Throughout the years, 22 hospital corpsmen have received the Medal of Honor. This is the most of any single U.S. Navy group, representing the dedication of the lifesaving sailors serving the Navy and Marine Corps. But, one of Taqaddum’s corpsmen explained how the birthday symbolizes much more.

“It represents the core values: honor, courage and commitment,” said Seaman Taalib-Din K. Grier of Battalion Aid Station for Headquarters, Service and Communications Companies, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward). “The honor is having the title of hospital corpsman. The courage is having the ability to go anywhere necessary to save a life. Commitment is to do it any time, any place.”

The long-term relationship between Navy corpsmen and Marines began even before the hospital corps became an official organization. Grier, a Winston-Salem, N.C., native, said the lasting bond between Marines and corpsmen is “just proof to show how committed we are to be with Marines.”

After such a long history, this relationship can be compared to that which may be felt for family, said Chief Petty Officer John R. Lafferty, an independent duty corpsman with Al Taqaddum Surgical Company, 2nd Maintenance Battalion, 2nd MLG (Fwd.), and an Amarillo, Texas, native.

“The very first corpsman to receive the Medal of Honor was during the same campaign as Dan Daly,” said Lafferty, referring to Robert Stanley, who served alongside the prominent two-time Medal of Honor Marine during the Boxer Rebellion in China. “There’s a bond, almost a brotherhood, between the corpsmen and Marines.”

Before those days as hospital corpsmen, these sailors were referred to as “loblolly boys,” nurses and then baymen. Though their official title hasn’t changed since it was introduced in 1898, corpsmen have continued to evolve.

“As technology advances, so do we,” said Chief Petty Officer Keith A. Becker, an independent duty corpsman and the lead chief petty officer for surgical section, Al Taqaddum Surgical Company, 2nd Maintenance Battalion, 2nd MLG (Fwd.). “We can save more lives now than we ever could.”

During the celebration, numerous sailors and Marines stood over a podium to honor past corpsmen and explain the significance of the Hospital Corps. Sailors paid respects as the U.S. flag was passed and they enjoyed in a cake cutting ceremony.

Becker, a Detroit native, said the celebration was “one of the more spectacular ceremonies” he’s seen and he looks forward to the many birthdays to come.

“It’s just the beginning. This relationship is going to continue as long as the Marine Corps and Navy exist,” he said. “Our pride and heritage intermingle.”

June 16, 2007

11th MEU TRAP Team preps for deployment

FIRE BASE GLORIA, MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (June 15, 2007) -- Marines with Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit are taking part in a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel (TRAP) course offered by the I Marine Expeditionary Force Special Operations Training Group, here.


June 15, 2007; Submitted on: 06/15/2007 04:48:31 PM ; Story ID#: 2007615164831
By - 11th MEU Public Affairs

The course, which began June 11 and will continue thru June 22, consists of classroom lecture and practical application designed to train personnel in the pertinent areas of TRAP in preparation for the MEU’s deployment later this year.

Some of the topics covered during the training are specialized recovery tactics, urban recovery planning, platoon evasion, helicopter hazards and destruction, casualty handling, and day/night recovery practical applications.

According to Staff Sgt. Stephen R. Marshall, chief TRAP instructor, I MEF SOTG, the first week of the course was spent in the classroom covering everything from mission planning and equipment to mission execution.

"During the second week the Marines are given back-to-back missions during the day and night," said Marshall.

The mission of the TRAP team can range from personnel recovery to destruction of downed aircraft upon recovery of the aircrews, said Marshall.

The TRAP force consists of 22 Marines and two corpsmen, all of whom are capable of fast roping into a mission site. Added personnel with specific training such as demolitions also allow the team to complete missions that may require destroying an aircraft.

According to Marshall, the Marines are given a variety of operational scenarios ranging from performing missions in different terrains to completing missions in a nuclear, biological and chemical threat area.

The learning curve for the course is extremely steep, according to participants.

"The instructors throw a lot of stuff at you in the two weeks," said 23-year-old Cpl. Robert M. Ruiz, team leader, TRAP Force, 11th MEU. "The course is very realistic. I've learned that accountability of your Marines and gear and rehearsals are very important."

The scenarios begin fairly simple with no enemy present and rapidly increase in difficulty with the last exercise being in a mountain environment. Marines taking the course found the fast pace challenging.

"Having to learn that way forces you to remember the information a lot easier and it forces you to pay close attention to the instructors," said Sgt. Jared J. Lovell, team leader, TRAP Force, 11th MEU.

According to 1st Lt. Ed D. Hinman, TRAP Force platoon commander, the instructors at SOTG are doing a good job challenging the Marines.

"They are putting them in difficult situations forcing them to really think and use initiative," said Hinman.

According to Marshall, the Marines are answering the instructors' challenge.

"This unit is being extremely proactive and the MEU is also being extremely proactive by giving extra guidance and assistance,” said Marshall. “They are really preparing themselves for the eventuality that they would have to do these missions."

8th MCD educators visit depot for taste of Marine boot camp

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO (June 15, 2007) -- High school administrators, teachers and counselors from Recruiting Stations Dallas, Houston and Fort Worth, Texas, experienced a week-long synopsis of Marine Corps recruit training during a 2007 Educators Workshop June 11 to 15.


June 15, 2007; Submitted on: 06/14/2007 12:00:31 PM ; Story ID#: 200761412031
By - Compiled by Public Affairs, MCRD San Diego

Introduced to the depot like every recruit, the group’s introduction started on the infamous yellow footprints with drill instructors barking instructions.

“I think the experience of the yellow footprints is a great introduction to what Marines stand for,” said Pam Hill, coordinator of counselors, RS Dallas. “The Marine Corps teaches children the respect, control, integrity, honor and trust they might otherwise not learn. The Marines embody these traits and that is what they stand for.”

The educators had a chance to experience some hands-on activities such as Marine Corps Martial Arts and a modified version of the Bayonet Assault Course. They also ran through of the obstacles recruits use in training.

Briefs describing the entire process from joining the Marine Corps to boot camp and graduation, and the Fleet Marine Force, were held for the educators to help inform them about Marines’ lifestyles.

Bob Botone, teacher and football coach at Richland Hills, Texas, described his whole experience by comparing the first and third phase recruits to seventh grade and varsity football. He said that he saw the transition from basic recruit to a perfected piece of work.

The educators also visited Edson Range, Weapons and Field Training Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., to witness weapons firing and field training and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.

Educators leaving the depot today said they are departing with a better understanding of the Marine Corps and the young men and women that embody it.

June 15, 2007

Juneau Prepares Environmentally for Talisman Saber 07

PACIFIC OCEAN, At Sea -- In preparation for Talisman Saber 2007, Sailors and embarked Marines aboard USS Juneau (LPD 10) are learning environmental protection measures to safely preserve Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.


By Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Michael D. Kennedy, Fleet Public Affairs Center Det. Sasebo
posted: June 15, 2007

The main operating area for the exercise -- which will bring together nearly 32,000 U.S.-Australian forces for training -- is in Shoalwater Bay Training Area. The 1000 square mile area near the Barrier Reef has a high environmental value. Therefore, the area is administered by the Australian Army to ensure sound environmental practices are observed.

“Australia has particularly stringent regulations in regards to recycling and dumping while working in this location,” said Juneau’s Safety Officer Lt. Ken Ward. “It is definitely about good environmental stewardship operating this close to the world’s largest ‘life form’ [The Great Barrier Reef System].”

The Australian Department of Defense provided Juneau with an educational video that outlines way to protect marine and wildlife while operating in the area both at sea and on land.

The first portion describes what actions personnel are to take when encountering marine mammalians and how to protect the delicate coral ecosystems of the reef system while conducting sonar operations. The second describes the requirements for forces operating ashore, including the proper disposition of hazardous materials and providing information on hazardous wildlife.

To further protect the environment in Australia, the Australian Quarantine & Inspection Service (AQIS) helped Juneau and 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit ensure that no outside environmental influences—like insects and other biological material—were introduced during the exercise. AQIS thoroughly inspected Juneau and the 31st MEU down to each Marines individual “rucksack” during a recent port visit to Brisbane, Australia.

Preventive Medicine Technician, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SW) Fredrick Head is responsible for ensuring Juneau is compliance with all Australian rules and regulations.

“They [Australia] are stringent on certain items, which might upset the ecological balance,” added Head. “The Marines [31st MEU] and we [Juneau] had already taken all the necessary steps to come into compliance well in advance.”

Juneau is ensuing everything they do is discussed ahead of time to ensure the safety of its personnel and the environment.

“Talisman Saber was designed with environmental considerations at the forefront and every U.S. participant was presented specific environmental training for this region,” said Juneau Commanding Officer Capt. John D. Alexander. “All exercise events are briefed in thorough detail and employ the tenants of Operational Risk Management, not only for our personnel but for the environment. By emphasizing good stewardship in this way, I am fully confident we will leave the environment the way we found it and meet our training objectives.”

Juneau is participating in exercise Talisman Saber 07 (TS07) a U.S. and Australian lead joint Task Force operation preparing our militaries for crisis action planning and execution of contingency operations. TS07 is designed to maintain a high level of interoperability between U.S. and Australian forces, demonstrating the U. S. and Australian commitment to our military alliance and regional security. The exercise also supports increased flexibility and readiness, which are force multipliers in winning the Global War on Terror.

Juneau is the only forward-deployed amphibious transport dock and serves Task Force 76, the Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious force. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.

Marines share fitness, health tips with local elementary schools

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO (June 15, 2007) -- Students at Bayview Terrace Elementary held a Military Appreciation Field Day June 1, where they learned the importance of proper nutrition and fitness.


June 15, 2007; Submitted on: 06/14/2007 12:07:40 PM ; Story ID#: 200761412740
By Lance Cpl. Alicia Small, MCRD San Diego

Marines from the 12th Marine Corps District and the depot’s Single Marine Program were present at the event to motivate students as they ran through obstacles, and lead them in singing the Marine’s Hymn as well as other patriotic songs.

The children went through different stations where they performed various military exercises such as push-ups, crunches, flutter kicks, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, running drills, pull-ups and the flexed arm hang. Those who gave their effort on the pull-up bar were awarded with their choice of several different prizes.

There was also a station where the children could get their faces painted with camouflage paint, and a Navy booth where children had the opportunity to try on a fire-fighting uniform.
Other booths featured examples of healthy food and good nutrition.

Events like the field day are beneficial to the children for several reasons.
"Kids are so full of energy and they never seem to get tired," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert Aguirre, one of the service members who attended the field day. "Experiences like this provide a way to positively channel their energy while they are having fun and learning at the same time."

Another advantage of occasions like the field day is that it gave children a chance to see a different side of the military than what they usually see on the television, said Aguirre.

"When service members are active in the surrounding communities, it gives the children a more positive outlook on military life," said Lance Cpl. Mayra Ramirez, 3rd Battalion administration clerk. "It also lets them know the differences between each branch and what options they have for the future."

Students at the school were grateful to the service members for dedicating their time.
"I’m glad I got to hang out with the Marines," said Raul Jallegeosoto, 3rd grader. "It was really fun and I think they are all nice. I look up to them for everything they do for the country and I hope I can be like them when I grow up."

Teachers and other staff members at the school hope to make the Military Appreciation Field Day a tradition and said it was well worth starting.

This was the second year Bayview Terrace Elementary has held this event to show the local troops their gratitude for what they have done, and to teach the children about what the military really does, said Kelley Sitar, SMP Coordinator.

"It’s a huge motivation for both the children and the Marines. The children enjoy the event because they have the chance to be around someone they admire, while the Marines get pleasure from knowing how much they mean to the children and the local communities," said Sitar, of Corona, Calif.

Everyone involved in the event felt it was a success and said they look forward to participating in it again next year.


CAMP AL TAQADDAM, Iraq - The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit began operations in Al Anbar Province today, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.


Release Date: 6/15/2007
Release Number: 07-01-03P

Headquartered at Camp Al Taqaddam, Iraq, the California-based Marine Air-Ground Task Force deployed to Iraq as part of the troop surge in support of the Baghdad Security Plan (Operation Fardh al Qanoon).

The 13th MEU’s mission in Al Anbar includes route interdiction, patrolling and conducting searches.

Commanded by Col. Carl E. Mundy III, the 13th MEU includes its Command Element; Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment; and Combat Logistics Battalion 13. The Air Combat Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 (reinforced) detached from the MEU and is attached to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) in Al Asad, Iraq.

The MEU deployed from San Diego April 10 and came ashore from amphibious ships of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group.

Our supply in short supply; Blood Program officials urge service members to donate

CAMP LESTER, Okinawa (June 15, 2007) -- Officials with the Armed Service Blood Program are looking for donors to contribute blood to bolster their depleting supply.


Lance Cpl. Tyler J. Hlavac

But as blood program officials are painfully aware, not everyone can contribute.

The problem the blood bank here is facing is not necessarily a lack of volunteers to give blood, but a lack of qualified volunteers, said Air Force Capt. Katrina Ghazanfar, the deputy director for the Armed Services Blood Program on Okinawa.

Deployments to countries where there is a high risk of contracting malaria, such as Guam, South Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan or the Philippines, often make a service member ineligible to give blood for up to one year, said Ghazanfar.

Additionally, recent tattoos or vaccinations can disqualify donors.

"Some vaccinations make blood unsafe to donate, such as the small-pox vaccine, which can disqualify you for up to three weeks," she said. "The anthrax vaccination however, will not disqualify a donor."

Also, the annual permanent change of station season affects the blood bank supply, said Tracy Parmer, the program's blood donor recruiter.

"With the PCS season upon us, our number of volunteers often decreases and newcomers to the island often don't know where or when they can give blood," she said.

As a result of these factors, blood bank officials are asking all qualified donors, to include family members and civilians, to donate at the blood bank located next to the Naval Hospital here or take part in an upcoming blood drive.

In addition to benefiting members of all services, much of the blood received also goes to children in terminal care, Ghazanfar said.

"We have children who are born with serious illnesses that require a lot of blood for survival," she said.

June 14, 2007

3d MEB, Australian soldiers work together on USS Juneau during Talisman Saber 2007

ABOARD USS JUNEAU (June 14, 2007) -- Side-by-side, Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade took the opportunity to work with soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment here June 14.


June 14, 2007; Submitted on: 06/14/2007 11:31:05 AM ; Story ID#: 200761411315
By Cpl. Kamran Sadaghiani, 31st MEU

The Marines and soldiers spent the day learning the technical skills needed to operate each other’s weapon systems as part of interoperability training between both forces in preparation for field training during Exercise Talisman Saber 2007. The exercise is designed for both U.S. and Australian forces to conduct joint operations ashore and train staff and commanders in crisis action planning for possible future operations.

The sessions began with the Australian soldiers from 2RAR, based out of Townsville Australia, practicing with the L14-A1 84mm recoilless rifle to hone and maintain their proficiency in effectively employing the weapon. During the training, the Marines joined to participate in the learning experience.

Marine Lance Cpl. Ryan Graal, an assault man with the MEU, was given the opportunity to partake in the training of the Australian L14 A1 and felt a certain degree of satisfaction with their experience.

“The best part was working with these soldiers and interacting with them only to find out that they’re not much different from us,” said Graal, a Chicago native.

The Marines returned the favor by introducing their Australian brothers to the MK-153 shoulder-launched multi-purpose assault weapon, which has similar capabilities to the L14 A1. They also gave their Australian counterparts an interactive class on firing the assault weapon.

For Australian Army Pvt. Arnel Gray, a grenadier with 2RAR, working with the Marines for the first time was intriguing.

“I was fascinated by the Marines’ weapon systems,” said Gray. “It was interesting to hold the SMAW and learn about its different capabilities.”

Throughout their stay aboard the Juneau, 2RAR soldiers will be receiving additional orientation from Marines on operating assault amphibian vehicles and how the MEB’s combat service support element functions.

“It’s good cross training,” said Australian Army Cpl. Kavin Lomax. “I am looking forward to develop a working relationship and learn from each other.”

Graal echoed Lomax’s feelings that he too is eager to be working along with his counterparts.

“This training evolution should be a constructive learning experience,” said Graal. “Because the way we both operate is so similar, I’m sure the U.S. Marines and the Australian soldiers will mesh real easy when we start training together in the upcoming days.”

As a light infantry element, the soldiers of 2RAR do not use mechanized vehicles, so coming aboard an U.S. amphibious ship and working with the Marines and Sailors is a great learning opportunity to expand their knowledge base, explained Australian Army 1st Lt. Simon Ashley-Bunn, a light infantry platoon commander with 2RAR.

More than 20,000 U.S. and 12,000 Australian personnel will participate in Talisman Saber which will enhance interoperability and regional stability.

June 13, 2007

U.S.–Australian Expeditionary Staffs, Ships Begin 1st Phase of Talisman Saber

ABOARD USS ESSEX, At Sea (NNS) -- The U.S. Navy’s Expeditionary Strike Group 7 ships left Brisbane, Australia, on June 10, while amphibious ships of Royal Australian Navy began the embarkation of Australian soldiers in northern neighbor Townsville, launching the force integration training (FIT) phase of Talisman Saber 2007 (TS07).


Story Number: NNS070613-20
Release Date: 6/13/2007 3:52:00 PM
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Adam R. Cole, Task Force 76 Public Affairs

TS07 is a joint and combined exercise demonstrating and improving on the U.S.-Australian military alliance that will feature crisis action planning and the execution of contingency response operations in land, sea and air maneuvers.

More than 20,000 U.S. and 12,000 Australian personnel will participate in the military training exercise set to enhance interoperability and regional stability.

“This exercise is a prime example of the chief of Naval Operation’s vision for a 1,000-ship Navy,” said Rear Adm. Carol M. Pottenger, Commander Amphibious Force, 7th Fleet, and Deputy Commander Combined Force Maritime Component Command. “We are excited to work side by side with our Australian friends, developing seamless interplay where we will train as a joint task force and operations staff in crisis action planning for executing contingency operations.”

For the U.S. Navy, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7 assets include the Sasebo, Japan-based ships USS Essex (LHD 2), USS Juneau (LPD 10) and USS Tortuga (LSD 46) with attached escorts from San Diego, USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60) and USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53). USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), 7th Fleet flagship, will be operating in the area but independent of the strike group training. Embarked aboard the ESG ships is the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).

Pottenger, along with members of her staff, embarked Essex for Talisman Saber to test interoperability and refine procedures and doctrine of assigned forces afloat, with Amphibious Squadron 11, ESG 7 and Australian counterparts.

Commander Australian Amphibious Task Group Capt. Peter G. Laver believes the field training will help bring the two nations closer, and not only on a military level.

“This exercise reinforces the good will between our two navies and our two nations,” said Laver. “We are confident that this exercise will build a common understanding of tactics and capabilities and foster relationships between the sailors, soldiers and airman involved. In the end, the accomplished objectives should lead toward the concept of a 1,000-ship navy in that we are all working together to sustain regional peace and stability.”

TS07, a biannual exercise, officially began May 24 with a command post exercise involving U.S. military and Australian military staff members in a computer-simulated U.N. peace keeping operation.

The FIT phase of TS07 will provide a number of opportunities for the two forces to familiarize themselves with each other’s capabilities and operational procedures. Day one featured integrated communications and establishing a combined tactical picture. In the following days, the naval and aerial assets of both navies will conduct live-fire training, deck-landing qualifications and combined ship maneuvers, also to include a bilateral refueling at sea.

Aerial assets of the U.S. Navy’s expeditionary strike group will be supplied by Marine Medium Helicopter 265 (reinforced) of the 31st MEU.

The integration phase will also feature combined planning by U.S. and Australian forces to complete an amphibious landing and further exercise objectives.

At the conclusion of FIT, the field-training exercise portion of TS07 will commence, sending 31st MEU Marines ashore along with their Australian army counterparts. Pottenger and members of her staff will also disembark Essex at that time to join a combined staff ground headquarters.

“The potential for improving U.S.-Australian relations and combined military capabilities is incredible,” said Pottenger. “I am fully confident that the personnel of both our forces will rise to the challenges and make lasting friendships along the way.”

Commander, ESG 7 and Task Force 76, the Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious force. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility in Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.

For more news from Commander, Amphibious Force, U.S. 7th Fleet, visit www.news.navy.mil/local/ctf76/.

June 12, 2007

Marines move out in support of Iraqi Police

RUTBAH, Iraq (June 12, 2007) -- Marines with Company A, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Task Force Tarawa, have decided to move out.


June 12, 2007; Submitted on: 06/12/2007 02:11:09 PM ; Story ID#: 200761214119
By Lance Cpl. Brian L. Lewis, 2nd Marine Division

The Marines have been packing up their bags and taking down fortifications in an effort to give some of the city’s infrastructures back to the people.

The company was spread out into several locations throughout the city, some of which consisted of houses owned by Iraqi citizens.

“We actually rented this house from a local Iraqi who was willing to help us out,” said 1st Lt. Nicholas A. Borelli, the company executive officer. “Now, we are giving him his house back, but making sure it is presentable first.”

The Marines have been working diligently to get rid of sandbags, security obstacles, and anything that was done to the house, so the owner will not see a change when he returns.

Other members of the company, who were using the city’s bank as a firm base, have also recently begun restoring the facility to its former shape.

“We are demilitarizing the bank, so the Iraqi people may utilize it again,” said 2nd Lt. Jeff Gaul, the platoon commander for 2nd platoon. “They have been supporting us immensely and allowed us to use it for quite some time, but they need it.”

Safety was of great concern during the moves and renovation efforts, but with the Marines from Company B aiding in security, there were no interruptions or obstacles preventing the Marines from accomplishing the mission.

“We cordoned off the entire city with the help of our own Marines, as well as some from Bravo Company,” said Gaul. “We wanted to secure safety for the Marines taking part in the project, as well as keep a watchful eye for the safety of the locals.”

The consolidation will bring the company to the nearby police station, where they will work closer with Iraqi Police.

“We will be moving close by to the Iraqi Police Station, so that we may give them better support and training,” said Gaul. “We are working hard to make sure the Iraqi Police get any help they need. We want to make a safe area such as Rutbah an even safer one.”

Tortuga enhances community relations in Brisbane

BRISBANE, Australia – Sailors aboard USS Tortuga (LSD 46) and embarked Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) took a different kind of off-ship liberty June 7, during their four-day port visit to Brisbane, Australia.


By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brandon A. Myrick
USS Tortuga Public Affairs
Posted: 06/12/2007

Approximately 45 Sailors and Marines volunteered on their day off to spend some valuable time with the residents of Wesley Mission elderly home, which brought much friendly conversation and even more happy smiles.

“This community service effort went phenomenally well,” said Tortuga’s Commanding Officer Cmdr. Todd A. Lewis. “Events like this are great because there is positive interaction between Team Tortuga and the local community.”

Sailors and Marines aboard Tortuga get many opportunities to enjoy community service projects, to offer their time and services and to lend a helping hand in each of the host nations they visit during their extended underway periods as a forward-deployed ship. Projects such as these serve the 7th Fleet mission of creating partnerships at all levels in order to maintain peace and stability in the region.

This was on the minds of Tortuga Sailors during the day.

“Community projects like this are important because we in the Navy have an opportunity to help those who are less fortunate by working hard together and making a difference in their community,” Damage Controlman 1st Class Manuel C. Gabon.

After a tour of the facility, Sailors and Marines held a meet-and-greet with the residents over tea, juice and snacks. The brief bite was followed by a dance session, where the residents showed the U.S. military visitors some Australian-style dance steps.

“I had a great time talking and sharing tea time with the residents here,” said Operation Specialist 3rd Class Tabitha Miller. “I really enjoy taking part in community service projects because it affords me the chance to meet and interact with peoples of different cultures.”

According to Chief Boatswain’s Mate (SW/AW) Earnest C. Pippen, the personal interaction is a major draw for all participants of events like these.

“Participating in community service projects allows Sailors and Marines the chance to see the host country’s culture first hand,” said Pippen, Tortuga’s Community Relation Director.

Margaret Niethe, client service coordinator for Wesley Mission, was impressed with the number of volunteers from Tortuga, as well as their eagerness to lend a helping hand. According to Niethe, this was the best community service project to come to Wesley Mission in a long time.

“This day has been so much fun and we are very grateful. The [Tortuga] captain, the chaplain, everyone is out here enjoying their time with the residents,” she said. “They can all be out sightseeing or participating in other events, but they chose to come out here and it speaks volumes about Tortuga’s character to our community.”

Tortuga was in Brisbane prior to what will be the start of the at-sea component of Talisman Saber 2007 (TS07), a joint and combined training exercise between the United States and Australia that will involve more than 32,000 military members from both nations, improve interoperability and enhance the military alliance between the two countries.

USS Tortuga (LSD 46) is forward-deployed out of Sasebo, Japan and serves Task Force 76, the Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious force. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.

NMCRS Combat Casualty Program Meets Critical Need

From the time he was a young boy, Maj. James L. Browning Jr. wanted to fly. As a 12-year-old, Browning joined the Mississippi Wing Civil Air Patrol, a civilian auxiliary of the United States Air Force. During his time as a Civilian Air Patrol cadet, he learned the importance of leadership, physical fitness, and a strong moral compass—all qualities that would serve him well as a Marine in the years to come.


Story Submitted: Jun 12, 2007

Following high school, Browning enlisted, earning the rank of corporal before leaving active duty to enter college in Mississippi as a commercial aviation major. In 2000, he accepted a position with USAir flying small passenger jets out of Richmond, Va. Hoping to augment his salary as a commercial pilot, in late 2001 Browning joined 3rd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, an artillery reserve unit based in Richmond.

As a member of 3⁄14, Browning was cross-trained as a military policeman in preparation for his unit’s activation and deployment to Iraq, and by March 2006, 3⁄14 was on its way to Al Anbar Province in Iraq. Then, over a 36-hour period in late April, the young Marine suddenly began to experience excruciating headaches that culminated in an intercranial bleed beneath his skull. He had suffered a debilitating stroke that left him partially paralyzed.

When Browning’s parents received word of their son’s condition, they immediately made arrangements to meet their son at National Naval Medical Center Bethesda, Md., where he had been airlifted following his initial surgery in Germany.

Together, the family shuffled between Bethesda, the Veterans Administration hospital in Richmond, and the Traumatic Brain Injury Unit at the Veterans Administration hospital in Tampa, Fla. Very quickly, Jim and Brenda Browning found themselves incapable of meeting expenses, both at home and in their travels with their son during his many surgeries.

Fortunately, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society’s Combat Casualty Visiting Nurse Program stepped in to assist.

First, NMCRS Bethesda director Ed Potts met with Browning’s parents and outlined how the society could help. Potts provided an immediate grant to cover the cost of food and lodging until government funds were issued to cover these mounting expenses. Also, because the family’s income suffered when Brenda Browning left her job to be with their son, the society was able to help cover some of the Brownings’ ongoing expenses back home in Mississippi.

Next, Potts referred the Browning family to an NMCRS combat casualty visiting nurse, Susan Boyd. Boyd immediately met with the family to answer any questions they had concerning the prescribed course of care and to help navigate through the military medical rehabilitation process.

Serving as the Brownings’ personal advocate, Boyd not only monitors Browning’s rehabilitation, but also makes sure the family is able to successfully address issues that may arise as a result of his injury. She provides the family with critical information concerning resources and programs available to them, and she is available if the family has any concerns or simply needs a shoulder on which to lean. Since the Combat Casualty Program guarantees a society visiting nurse will be available as long as the need exists, the family is assured that any financial or medical issues that arise as a result of their son’s combat-related injury will be addressed quickly and efficiently.

Jim and Brenda Browning couldn’t be more pleased with the care their son has received at NNMC Bethesda, which Jim Browning calls ‘‘a wonderful house of magic.” Further, NMCRS and its Combat Casualty Program, they claim, has helped them stay afloat, both mentally and financially, and proof lies in the number of families Jim Browning has referred to NMCRS Bethesda.

Potts said at least four dozen service members and their families whom the Brownings have met during their son’s time at Bethesda have turned to the society for help meeting unforeseen financial expenses.

‘‘Imitation may be the most sincere form of flattery,” Potts said. ‘‘But referrals from service members and families whom we’ve helped come in a close second.”

Lisa Aszklar is a Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society Staff Writer.

First LAR ruins another insurgent’s day

RAWAH, Iraq (June 12, 2007) -- In the small outpost the Marines of Company D share with the local Iraqi Police in the town of Rawah, Iraq, the scene could only be described as organized chaos. Cpl. Jeremiah J. Palmer was gathering the Marines of his squad to prepare for a foot patrol, and Staff Sgt. Sean P. Perry was calling for the rest of his platoon to hurry up and get in their vehicles.


June 12, 2007; Submitted on: 06/12/2007 01:24:52 PM ; Story ID#: 2007612132452
By Cpl. Ryan C. Heiser, 2nd Marine Division

Early in the afternoon of May 23, the Marines of Company D, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 2, received intelligence there was an improvised explosive device in the city. Weapons platoon was sent to find the IED, and secure the area until the explosive experts could properly dispose of the device.

“A few days prior to this IED, we raided a house and found a lot of material used to make bombs,” said Perry, the company’s Weapons Platoon commander. “Then we got intelligence from the IPs that in the same area there was an IED in place, so I got my guys ready and we went to investigate.”

Within minutes, the platoon commander from Beecher, Ill., was leading the way to the suspected site, an intersection near a gas station in the middle of the city.

“When stuff like this happens, I always take my ‘Dream-Team,’” laughed Palmer, a squad leader with the company. “This time we had the quick reaction force nearby too, but my guys were the ones sent to investigate and set up the inner perimeter.”

Palmer, an Ardmore, Okla., native, said when they arrived at the site, they were approached by two locals who agreed to tell them the general location of the explosive as long as the Marines promised not to tell anyone their names.

Perry sent Palmer’s squad to circle around the block, so they could approach the new location and get a better visual of the device.

“After we got there and started looking, I realized there was only one logical place for the IED, which was this small pile of rocks against a wall near an alley. The problem was, it just didn’t look like an IED,” said Palmer, who is serving on his second deployment.

Palmer sent his Marines away to set up a safe perimeter around the suspected IED while he searched up and down the narrow street for the location of any more explosives.

“After everyone was safe, I took a closer look with another guy using my rifle’s sights to decide whether it was the bomb or not,” Palmer said. “Scared isn’t the right word. I had taken every precaution to make sure my guys were safe, but I figured, ‘If it’s going to go off, then it’s going to go off.’ To be honest, I’d rather it be me than any of my guys.”

Palmer called Perry over and showed him where he thought the explosives were. After looking at the pile of rocks, the experience of the older Marine took over, and he called in the explosive experts.

“I didn’t have a lot of visual proof,” said Perry, who is serving his seventh deployment in Iraq. “But I just got this feeling from it, it’s hard to explain. I could see a piece of a black bag, plus I had a few of my Marines say it was giving them a bad feeling, so I called it in.”

Pfc. Fabio Valdez, a light armored vehicle crewman with the company, saw a line of thin fishing wire running away from the rocks, parallel to the wall.

“It was all in slow motion, like a movie,” said Valdez, a Houston native. “I saw the line, then I saw the rocks, and it all just came together. I was thinking to myself, ‘At any moment it’s going to blow up, anytime now.’”

When the battalion’s explosive experts arrived, they immediately recognized the rock pile as an IED. After careful examination, they determined it was a cylinder about a foot-and-a-half long, four inches in diameter, wrapped with nails. The cylinder had a grenade fuse, set to go off when the fishing line pulled the pin, and was wrapped in a black bag inside a box under the rock pile.

The disposal team safely detonated the IED after nearby locals were warned and evacuated. The blast was felt as far as 300 meters away, and rocks and debris scattered about half as far.

“I credit this to my Marines. Almost all my guys are fresh on their first deployment, but they handled this like professionals. They did everything right, just like they were supposed to, and the fact is it saved lives,” said Perry. “It was a well-thoughtout, well-hidden device, and there is no doubt it would have cost us lives. That didn’t happen today, and as long as we continue like we have, it won’t happen tomorrow.”

2/6 kicks off Operation Alljah

FALLUJAH, Iraq (June 12, 2007) -- Marines and Sailors with 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, and Combat Logistics Battalion 6, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, both with Multi-National Forces-West, recently completed the first phase of “Operation Alljah” in the city of Fallujah


June 12, 2007; Submitted on: 06/12/2007 04:15:09 AM ; Story ID#: 20076124159
By Cpl. Joel Abshier, Regimental Combat Team 6

The mission of Operation Alljah is to provide stability and protection for the citizens of Fallujah. For this iteration of the operation, Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 6, 2nd Marine Logistics Group Forward, emplaced concrete barriers to section the city into precincts; leathernecks with 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, worked with the Iraqi Police and Army to set up operational stations. At these stations, Iraqi civilians can come in to receive identification cards, food, reimbursements and a chance to join the neighborhood watch program.

“The operation is similar to what another unit did in the city of Ramadi,” said Maj. George S. Benson, executive officer of 2/6. “We’re capitalizing on the success of Ramadi and using many of the same techniques.”

“It’s great in theory and it’s bold. Hopefully this will give that last little bit of pressure onto the local population to go ahead and take charge,” admitted 1st. Lt. Justin Hunter, commander of 4th Platoon, C Company, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, attached to 2/6.

“I was waiting for this opportunity,” said Col. Faisal, Police Chief of Fallujah. “This is one of the successful steps we have made because it (gives) security and protection in this area for the citizens of Fallujah.”

Alljah is a complex plan with many moving parts. The first of these parts to kick into motion were Hunter’s engineers. Once arriving at their destination, an abandoned school, combat engineers immediately began laying the groundwork for the first step: fortification of an abandoned school. This concrete compound would ultimately serve as the headquarters during the beginning phase of Operation Alljah.

“Operation Alljah is our chance of giving a small sliver of pie to the local population,” Hunter said. “Instead of owning or trying to take care of the entire city themselves, we give them a small district. It’s prompting them to take charge of their own city.”

The logistically-heavy combat engineers unloaded a mountain of sandbags and numerous bunkers, which were constructed days before the operation kicked off, to be placed on the roof of the school.

“We worked through the night,” said Hunter, after he and his Marines unloaded, carried and placed hundreds of sandbags throughout the abandoned school-turned-headquarters for the operation. “We are providing force protection and trying to build up as much as we can overnight so in the morning, when everything’s done, the insurgents will wake up, look around and not really have a chance to engage the (Iraqi Police) or Iraqi Army.”

Working side-by-side, Marines with F Company , 2/6, and Iraqi Army soldiers patrol and monitor the area surrounding their newly fortified compound.

“Our job is to (help) the Iraqis control the area,” said Mechanicsville, Md., native Lance Cpl. Jordan P. Bremm, a rifleman and assistant gunner in F Company. In the street near Bremm’s entry control point, many Iraqi civilians gathered around a downed power pole. While keeping an eye on the growing collection of civilians, Bremm added, “This pole came down in the middle of the night taking a lot of power with it. They are all out here trying to fix it.”

While the entrances were under the scrutinizing eyes of Marines with F Company, hundreds of Iraqi civilians, who have been searched for suspicious materials and weapons, lined up along the walls inside the compound and patiently waited to take advantages of the many services being offered at the new precinct headquarters: claims for damages, identification cards, food distribution, neighborhood watch recruitment, and hundreds of people came to inquire about joining the Iraqi police.

“We’re doing minimal physical screening to make sure these guys are not grossly ill,” said Navy Lt. Matt A. Swain, the 2/6 battalion surgeon. “What we’re doing is setting up a screening to see if they can be an IP. If they need actual care for something, we refer them to their Iraqi health care infrastructure.”

Along with the medical screening, the Iraqis went through a methodical identification process that included retina scans and fingerprinting.

“Once this information is gathered, we enter it into our (Biometrics Automated Toolset) system,” said Sgt. Mark A. Taggart, BAT system noncommissioned officer-in-charge with 2/6. “If they do have an (identification) card with them, we’ll do a quick scan to check and see if they are already enrolled in our computer system. We’ll update any information we can and if they have an expired card or don’t have one at all, we’ll give them a new one. Basically everyone gets an ID card that comes in here.”

Iraqis with I.D. cards can use them to move more quickly through entry control points that are located in many places within the city.

“When they hand us their cards, we can look in the system and figure out who they are and whether they have connections with known individuals involved in any circles of insurgency,” Taggart said. “In the end, we are trying to make life easier for everyone. Iraqis just want to get on with their lives. We’re here to make sure it happens.”

Several local nationals also sought out the Marines who could help them with monetary reimbursements for damages caused by Coalition Forces operating within the city.

“If US forces damage particular personal property then individuals are authorized to come in,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Doug Hoelscher, the Camp Fallujah disbursing officer with CLB-6. “An amount is then determined and disbursers from various detachments, either embedded with them or are out with the unit, reimburse the individuals for the damage we created.”

Damages such as kicked-in doors or knocked out windows were common situations when the Marines were approached with claims.

“It’s not meant to be dollar-to-dollar reimbursement for the damage they sustained,” said Capt. John A. Schwab, a Marine lawyer with 2/6. “This is our offering of sympathy for what happens. It’s not an admission of guilt that we did anything wrong. We are basically saying we’re sorry for what happened and we’re sympathetic for the damage that was sustained and we’re willing to reimburse (a certain) amount for that damage.”

Throughout the operation, security at both the entry points and rooftop provide ample security for the individuals inside, however, it didn’t stop the insurgency from attempting to disrupt the operation. Small-arms fire and frequent other attacks on the compound were routinely heard throughout the mission.

“Better get your gear on,” said Master Sgt. Lorenzo Jones, the communications chief for 2/6, after an explosion detonated; vibrating the walls, ceasing all conversation within the building and henceforth causing Marines to focus on the safety of everyone inside and out of the building.

No Marines were injured in the duration of the small attacks, however, the steady sounds of small arms fire proved a grave reminder that Fallujah is not a city to be taken for granted.

Hunkered down behind a cement wall, one Iraqi Soldier, Naem Salim Chali, smiles and explains that this kind of situation is normal. He continues to say that hostility from insurgents is decreasing extensively all the time. “It’s actually safer here now,” he said. “When the bad guys see the Marines coming, they always run.”

Australian soldiers, 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade join forces for Talisman Saber 2007

ABOARD USS JUNEAU (June 12, 2007) -- Soldiers from the 2nd Royal Australian Regiment, based out of Townsville, Australia, observe as Marines from the Okinawa, Japan-based 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade prepare to load a landing craft utility from the USS Juneau (LPD 10) and sail to Her Majesty’s Australian Ship Kanimbla for interoperability training, June 12.


June 12, 2007; Submitted on: 06/13/2007 12:09:50 PM ; Story ID#: 200761312950
By Cpl. Kamran Sadaghiani, 31st MEU

The soldiers, belonging to 3rd Brigade, embarked Juneau to integrate with the MEB’s 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit for combined training in preparation for Exercise Talisman Saber 2007, an Australia-U.S. combined and joint training exercise which increases war fighting capabilities while observing environmental regulations.

Throughout their stay aboard Juneau, the soldiers will receive orientations from the Marines on operating assault amphibian vehicles and how the MEU’s combat service support element functions.

As a light infantry element, the soldiers do not use mechanized vehicles, so coming aboard ship and working with the Marines is a great learning opportunity to expand their knowledge base, explained Australian Army 1st Lt. Simon Ashley-Bunn, a light infantry platoon commander.

“I think this is a unique chance for us to take advantage of this, because the more we train together, the more we learn from each other to sharpen our operational capabilities,” said Ashley-Bunn.

Third Brigade and elements of 3d MEB will be conducting three weeks of combined and joint training along with Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force 76 during the exercise.

Talisman Saber, a biennial exercise, provides U.S. and Australian forces an opportunity to practice working together in a combined and joint environment, test interoperability and to refine procedures and doctrine. The exercise also allows military personnel from two allied nations to train together and enhance their war fighting skills

Task Force 1/3 conducts COIN operations

HADITHA, Iraq (June 12, 2007) -- Task Force 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines of Regimental Combat Team 2 along with Iraqi Security Forces conducted counterinsurgency operations near the Haditha Triad by launching Operation Northwestern Shoulder in the cities of Sagrah, Hosfa and Zawiyah.


June 12, 2007; Submitted on: 06/12/2007 01:42:15 PM ; Story ID#: 2007612134215
By Cpl. Rick Nelson, 2nd Marine Division

The villages searched during the operation are located in the northwestern part of the task force’s area of operation.

Using both ground transport and aviation support, Marines cleared and cordoned the villages, said Lt. Col. James W. Bierman, battalion commander, 1/3.

“We’ve had a significant amount of enemy presence in these areas,” said Bierman. “Each company was assigned a certain village to clear as well as the shoreline, looking for weapons caches, (improvised explosive devices) and insurgent activity while working very closely with the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police.”

First Lt. Michael A. Deredita, executive officer, Bravo Company, 1/3, said they found a large amount of intelligence reporting the area housed approximately 300 insurgents who used the vicinity as a location for meetings and training.

Throughout the operation, Marines assigned to Bravo Company cleared Zawiyah, the largest of the three villages, and also the shoreline of the area near the Euphrates River.

“While clearing the villages, we set up an area inside of a school where we brought all males 15 years old and up,” said Deredita. “We ran all their names to make sure they weren’t on any high value target lists. If their name came up we detained them and asked them further questions.”

During the process, Bravo Company detained 10 Iraqis who were all brought in for questioning.

“The major success was working with the Iraqi Police on this operation,” added Deridita, a Stafford, Mich., native. “Upon arrival, they took charge of things and we supported them throughout the mission. They did all the searching, which was good because people in the town saw that their own government has the authority to take charge of large scale operations.”

Bierman added the main goals of the operation were to disrupt the enemy who have been operating in those areas and create a permanent presence in the vicinity.

“A base will be built and will stay there, so the enemy cannot return,” Bierman added. “The operation works in phases and the first one is the Marines going in and clearing the villages and shoreline, which will last a few weeks. Then we’re going to setup, so the enemy knows we’re not going anywhere.”

The Battalion Commander said he thinks because the operation was a surprise, it helped prevent a number of threats.

“We had them attempt to place IEDs, but they were found before they could cause any harm,” Bierman said.

Aside from conducting COIN operations, Marines assigned to 1/3 will also be working on humanitarian projects in the area.

“We’re working on a few tasks already,” Bierman said. “A water pump is going to be built and we’re also working on providing the locals with job opportunities.”

According to Staff Sgt. Robert M. Garcia, team leader for the civil affairs detachment, many questions regarding humanitarian operations were asked by the local populace during Operation Northwestern Shoulder.

“We have already set up an area to receive claim cards (for locals to be reimbursed for losses due to military operations) and are planning on doing a (medical civil action program) within the next two months,” said Garcia a native of Goodyear, Ariz. “We’re also working on some projects for the schools in the area but are waiting on approval and funding for them.”

Bierman said the Marines have done an exceptional job since the operation began.

“They chased the enemy out of town and are already establishing a relationship with the locals, we’re off to a great start,” he concluded.

June 11, 2007

Marines experience ‘scene out of a bad horror movie’

COMBAT OUTPOST RAWAH, Iraq (June 11, 2007) -- Cpl. Jose J. Prado was just stepping through the gate of his company’s headquarters for a patrol May 24, when the sky lit up and the ground rumbled and shook. Another improvised explosive device had rocked the small city of Rawah, Iraq, overlooking the Euphrates River.


June 11, 2007; Submitted on: 06/11/2007 10:23:59 AM ; Story ID#: 2007611102359
By Cpl. Ryan C. Heiser, 2nd Marine Division

Prado, the company armorer with Company D, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 2, sprinted after the rest of his patrol as they rushed to get to the site, a few city blocks away.

“When we got there, you could still smell the residue, like sulfur, in the air around the street,” said Prado, a Modesto, Calif., native.

Upon arriving, the patrol immediately saw the small four-door sedan which had run over the IED. It was parked on the right curb, with the front end scattered as far as 50 meters down the road. Blood covered the grisly scene.

“By the time we got to the blast, some locals had already taken the victims to the local hospital,” said Prado, a two-time Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran.

After quickly securing the area, the Marines of the patrol gathered all the people who were nearby for questioning.

“We tactically questioned about a dozen people,” said Sgt. Lawrence W. Hrna, the company’s communications chief. “We found out what each person was doing, why they were in the area, checked IDs, general stuff like that to make sure they weren’t involved.”

Then the ground shook with another explosion, followed by a second and a third, mere minutes later.

“When the artillery mission started, it definitely scared us. I scooted up tighter to the wall until I found out it was just friendly artillery for a nearby city,” Prado said.

Hrna, a Floresville, Texas, native, agreed the timing of the artillery illumination mission was a bit of a shocker, even though he knew it was coming.

“You lose track of time when something like that happens,” he said. “I had to check my watch to see what time it was because I was so surprised.”

The city had been plagued by sand storms all day long, blinding the company’s patrols and limiting sight to a few feet. Once again the wind started to pick up, and the dust started to fly.

“It was like a scene out of a bad horror movie,” Prado said. “Every time you thought it couldn’t be worse, something else would happen and you were forced to think, ‘What next?’”

Then the lights went out.

“I remember thinking, ‘This isn’t fun,’” said Prado. “I just kept watching down my street and making sure the (Iraqi Police) we had with us were alright. They did well considering everything that happened.”

The city’s police were out in full force, questioning locals and patrolling the nearby area.

“The Marines we have, though most of them are in Iraq for the first time, handle everything extremely well. They have very few errors and never lose their cool when stuff happens,” said Hrna, who is currently on his fifth deployment in support of OIF. “The IPs mirror that competence and efficiency. They are actually acting like a police force.”

The two Marines agree the city is a better place now than before they got there. In a recent interview, RCT-2 commander Col H. Stacy Clardy stated that attacks in western Al Anbar province have dropped from an average of 95 a week down to roughly 20 a week since.

“It is a lot safer than it was. We have a good foot in this town and it is only going to get better,” Prado said.

“That explosion was a tragedy, but the locals know we are here to help,” said Hrna. “They see we are on their side, trying to make their city safer, and that’s what counts. They won’t forget that.”

June 9, 2007

CLB-6 participates in Operation Alljah

AL FALLUJAH, Iraq (June 9, 2007) -- Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 6, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) are working alongside Marines from Regimental Combat Team 6 on Operation Alljah in the city of Fallujah.


June 9, 2007; Submitted on: 06/09/2007 11:15:09 AM ; Story ID#: 20076911159
By Cpl. Wayne Edmiston, 2nd Marine Logistics Group

The operation is designed to turn Fallujah over to local Iraqi law enforcement by dividing the city up into manageable sections. Similar to a successful operation in the city Ar Ramadi, the operation was spearheaded by the Iraqi army and police with coalition forces acting in support roles.

“In order to set Fallujah up for success we put Iraqi police in charge of the city so we can slowly pull the American military presence out,” said 1st Lt. Kyle Opel, the executive officer for Transportation Support Company, CLB-6.

The battalion’s role in the operation is the emplacement of vital barriers that create a limited number of access points in to the separate districts of the city, Opel explained.

“It keeps insurgents from moving freely through the city,” the Fairfax Station, Va., native explained. “The checkpoints will be manned by Iraqi police who will ensure the security in the individual districts.”

In each district an Iraqi police station will act as the precinct headquarters. Once the new stations are built, they will begin a recruiting drive to train more Iraqi police to protect one of the largest cities in Al Anbar Province.

“There are already recruits waiting for the police stations to come so they can contribute to the protection their city,” Opel explained.

Task Force 24 reaches out to Chilean needy

CIFUNCHO, Chile (June 9, 2007) -- Building cooperation and support through humanitarian missions as well as training, Marines of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 24 joined Chilean counterparts in distributing donated items to the needy this week.


June 9, 2007; Submitted on: 06/08/2007 02:20:24 PM ; Story ID#: 200768142024
By Maj. Dan Huvane, Marine Forces Reserve

Currently deployed to South America in support of Partnership of the Americas 2007, the Marines of SPMAGTF 24 created space in their vehicles to take ashore boxes of humanitarian aid from the USS Pearl Harbor (LSD-52) for distribution. An amphibious offload at Cifuncho then provided an opportunity to extend the reach of U.S. hospitality to the small coastal communities that often host Chilean military exercises.

“As we continue to work with the Chilean Marine Corps, we will return to these places again and again. It’s important to show that we want to be good neighbors to the people who make their homes there,” said Lt. Col. Thomas E. Chandler of Fort Collins, Co., Assistant Operations Officer for SPMAGTF 24.

The first mission took place in tiny Cifuncho, a fishing village that shares a beach with the landing site. An informal town council happily accepted ‘regalos’ (gifts) of soccer balls, packs of crayons and hygiene kits at the waterfront, while a restaurant owner and matriarch of the village was overcome with joy at the fact that U.S. and Chilean Marines would remember them.

“It felt good to see their smiling faces,” said Sgt. Justin Park of Ocala, Fl., a combat cameraman assigned to SPMAGTF 24. “It makes you appreciate what you have when you see how happy they are over something like a soccer ball. The chance to do something positive, to see the immediate result and to talk to them a little bit, is really nice.”

A larger community relations mission followed in the town of Taltal, north of the training area and much larger in size than Cifuncho. Chilean Marine Lt. Rodrigo “Sporato” Aguilera, the liaison to SPMAGTF 24, coordinated efforts with a local Chilean Naval detachment in advance of the visit, enabling the Marines to spend time at two schools before distributing aid and enjoying a warm reception at each.

At Alondra Rojas Barrios, an elementary school of approximately 700 students, the Marines and Chilenos were taken by the principal to two classrooms for their visit. After some songs and few curious questions, they sat in on a lesson about Chile’s naval history, and made friends with the children before presenting them with boxes of stuffed animals and crayons.

“For kids who see infrequently view Americans, it is an opportunity to see the other side of the Marines, for us to make an impact,” said Lance Cpl. Chris Buckles Haley of communications platoon, Headquarters Company, 24th Marine Regiment. “I felt proud to be a part of presenting a positive impression, one that stands in contrast to how we’re often portrayed. Foreign relations is one of the most important things we do today as the hegemonic power,” continued the West Chicago, Ill., native.

“Besides, the five and six-year olds are right about at the Spanish level I can understand, so I was talking to kids that gave me the opportunity to work on my language,” added Buckles Haley.

The next stop of the mission was Las Ranitas, a preschool and day-care center where many poorer families of the town send their ‘ninos.’ There the Marines held and played with toddlers and even infants before passing on donated baby mobiles and hygiene kits.

“Everyone was extremely friendly, and I wish we had even more to give them,” said Capt. Georgia Parment of Ithaca, N.Y., assistant officer in charge of the SPMAGTF Air Combat Element. “My favorite part was holding on to the little ones, at least until one started hanging on by my ear. They were all very precious.”

Marines offload, train in Chilean desert

CIFUNCHO, Chile (June 9, 2007) -- Almost three weeks into their deployment, the Marines of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 24 are still discovering just how surprising, yet familiar, Chile’s landscape and climate can be.


June 9, 2007; Submitted on: 06/08/2007 02:15:51 PM ; Story ID#: 200768141551
By Maj. Dan Huvane, Marine Forces Reserve

Comprised of elements of 24th Marine Regiment and attached augments from the Reserve Component, SPMAGTF 24 concluded training exercises this week with Detachment Miller of Chile’s Infanteria de Marina, or Marine Corps, in the rugged desert of the country’s northern region. Unlike the previous week’s training – spent on bases in the more populous region of central Chile – the live-fire exercises conducted here closely resembled training in the Corps’ own desert ranges in Twentynine Palms, Calif., except that here the Pacific Ocean is just a few miles away.

One crucial training evolution was the amphibious offload at Cifuncho, as Marines and their vehicles, packed with gear needed for the entire training cycle, landed on the beach by Landing Craft Unit from the decks of the USS Pearl Harbor (LSD-52). Once each serial was assembled and accounted for, it was led into the red mountains in order to set up the regiment’s Combat Operations Center and begin training in a tactical environment.

“From our standpoint, it went very well,” said Gunnery Sgt. Aaron R. Vasquez of Belton, Mo., Logistics Chief for SPMAGTF 24. “Especially considering most of these guys have never been on a ship before. The time dispersion of the serials hampered the overall setup, but then the Marines stepped up and accomplished the mission.”

The grunts of SPMAGTF 24 took advantage of Cifuncho’s vast expanses with live-fire exercises, conducting squad and platoon attacks in the barren desert. Comprised of Marines from F Company of 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines, and Security Detachment, Headquarters Company, 24th Marine Regiment, the ground combat element made the most of their training time as a cohesive unit.

“I thought it was one of the best squad rush live-fire trainings I ever took part in, especially considering how we were put together” said Lance Cpl. Marcus A. Ruiz of Milwaukee, Wis., a rifleman with F Co., 2/24.

“We got a lot of leadership experience out of it,” said Lance Cpl. Cal Servi of Racine, Wis., also of 2/24. “Any time you’re five feet away from your buddy and your life is in his hands, it’s good to know things go as well as they did here, and that the communication is there.”

The Marines incorporated Chilean Marines into the training, instructing and supervising their counterparts on crew-served weapons, the .50-caliber M2 machine gun and the Mk-19 grenade launcher. This allowed some trigger-pullers who don’t usually work closely with infantry assault tactics on a hot range to gain such experience.

“It’s good to train with a line company, and getting the chance to work heavy guns in with a squad attack is neat” said Lance Cpl. Chris Davenport of Topeka, Kan., a tow gunner by specialty with HQ Co., 24th Marines. “Being on heavy guns, knowing you’re operating something that can destroy a lot, it’s a neat feeling knowing (the infantrymen) trust you enough when their lives are in your hands.”

In addition to fire and movement, the Marines and sailors fostered a stronger bond with Chile’s Corps through professional exchanges. Navy Capt. Matthew Gratton, 24th Marine Regiment Surgeon, spoke at the Chilean field hospital about his experiences directing a trauma unit in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Gratton is the EMS Medical Director for Kansas City, Mo., and currently also Interim Chairman of the Emergency Department at Truman Medical Center there. Col. Michael Fogel, Staff Judge Advocate for 24th Marines, attended Gratton’s lecture and was impressed.

“The Chileans were very interested in it,” said Fogel, a Staff Attorney at the Jackson County Family Court. “Capt. Gratton went through a lot of the new procedures that he used in Iraq when dealing with casualties, and others that are brand new since he returned. He was able to apply a lot of his civilian trauma experience to deal with the variety of casualties experienced over there. The Chileans had a keen interest in that, with their ongoing peacekeeping obligations in Haiti.”

It is the first time that the 24th Marine Regiment has deployed as a regimental headquarters outside the United States since Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and their performance on this exercise will play a large role in determining the unit’s operational readiness for future missions. The Marines are operating as the landing force for Partnership of the Americas 2007, an annual exercise conducted in South America in support of regional security and cooperation among nations of the Western Hemisphere.

June 8, 2007

Illinois native keeps battalion firing despite hardships

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (June 8, 2007) -- Being a small arms repair technician or armorer consists of working in a building that houses thousands of dollars worth of weaponry that has to be accounted for to ensure the safety of fellow coalition forces.


June 8, 2007; Submitted on: 06/08/2007 02:42:16 AM ; Story ID#: 20076824216
By Cpl. Wayne Edmiston, 2nd Marine Logistics Group

Tack on to that responsibility the pressure of being thousands of miles from home, managing a marriage and finding out your mother passed away after being considered perfectly healthy the day before.

Many servicemembers have their story, but this life is Cpl. Casey L. Schultz’s, a small arms repair technician with Combat Logistics Battalion 6, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward).

After graduating Harlem Senior High School she was well on her way into the job market.

“I used to have a job making the same as a (gunnery sergeant),” the Loves Park, Ill., native joked. “I worked for a boss I really didn’t like and wanted to see the world.”

Aside from that, she said the 18 to 20 hour days working at Cutco Knives in Chicago as an assistant district manager made her realize it was time for a career change.

“I always wanted to go to Japan,” Schultz continued. “I figured the Marine Corps could get me there.”

Schultz originally wanted to be a tanker, which the Marine Corps does not offer to females. She said she figured being around weapons was a fair trade.

She attended the Small Arms Repair Technician’s course at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md., and fell in love with fixing weapons. On her dream sheet, which is your preferences for duty station, she put Japan as her first choice.

When orders came back around, it seemed the Corps needed her elsewhere.

“I got orders to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina,” Schultz said. “Completely opposite from what I wanted.”

She was assigned to 2nd Military Police Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, a unit which no longer exists.

Although Schultz didn’t get the assignment she hoped, Camp Lejeune turned out to be the right place for her. It was there that she fell for a military policeman. She was soon married her husband George, an Iraq War veteran on his way out of the Marine Corps.

It was not long before it became her time to serve in Iraq. At the beginning of this year, she deployed.

“It’s good having a husband who was in the Marines and had been over here,” she explained. “I could ask him questions.”

Her husband, who is now a locksmith in Jacksonville, N.C., is active with the Key Volunteers, a support organization made up of spouses and family of service members. With the Marine Corps being predominantly male, the organization formerly named “Key Wives” was renamed because of people like Schultz.

“His friends still in the Marines make fun of him,” Schultz said with a smile.

She finally arrived and got the hang of things in the desert when her husband contacted her with saddening news.

“My mother passed away in her sleep,” she said. “It was a total surprise, she was perfectly healthy.”

Shultz explained a complication with pain medication and an enlarged heart led to her mother’s death.

“I went home to attend the funeral and there I found out I was the responsible woman in the family,” she explained. “I had to make decisions that I never thought I would make until I was older.”

One decision she stuck with was her commitment to her fellow Marines and two weeks later returned to Iraq.

It was not long before she went off the camp as part of a female search team. These women are responsible for searching Iraqi women at checkpoints, something male Marines cannot perform because of the sensitivity of the country’s culture.

“It’s cool to get out there and see the Iraqi people,” Schultz said. “Iraqi women are so nice and often misunderstood.”

After her assignment with the search teams, she returned to her usual job at the armory. Now she is a familiar face. Armorers know everyone in the unit just because of the nature of their job.

She has a list on her office wall that is adorned with weapons information and everything there is to know about them, including the price. Next to that is a wall locker scattered with photographs of her husband.

“I see and know everyone in CLB-6,” she explained.

She pretty much summed up her daily life in two words.

“Accountability and serviceability,” she said. “That is my life. Making sure I know where every weapon in the battalion is and making sure everyone’s weapon works.”

Marines battle harsh environment in Kuwait

UDARI RANGE, Kuwait (June 8, 2007) -- While “ship life” has its downsides, it is the unforgiving desert of Kuwait that makes Marines really miss home. Day after day, Marines from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit are subjecting themselves to dust, arid winds and, of course, triple-digit heat.


June 8, 2007; Submitted on: 06/14/2007 08:21:29 AM ; Story ID#: 200761482129
By Sgt. Andy Hurt, 13th MEU

Training must continue, however, and the “Fighting 13th” is continuously preparing itself for combat operations in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Though the desert provides a brutal environment in which to work, Marines here are proving they are capable of adapting and overcoming natural adversity, and in turn, hardening their bodies and minds.

“Obviously you have the heat, and then fatigue sets in,” said Sgt. Nicholas Person, a native of the comparatively mild Boston, Mass. “Tempers get shorter … by the end of the day everyone is thinking ‘When is this (stuff) gonna end?”

Person, a squad leader from Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, said that his Marines are successfully facing environmental challenges head on, although it takes extra steps to reduce casualty risks among the ranks.

“While we were on a convoy range the other day, one of my guys jumped out of a (vehicle) and immediately his legs started cramping,” said Person. “We reported it to the corpsmen and kept him off that movement, and by the next checkpoint he was good to go … if we hadn’t recognized the potential for a heat casualty, he could have been a lot worse off.”

Heat is not the only danger. Dust storms kicked up across the Middle East find an apex in Kuwait and can seriously limit visibility. Marines here are often unrecognizable by sight alone due to face wraps, goggles, gloves and headgear worn to protect them from the elements. Giving the appearance of ninjas roaming the lands with rifles, it’s full coverage that Person says keeps the danger of exposure at bay.

“It sucks to have to wear a cammie blouse all day, but everyone realizes it’s protecting them from the sun. We have to stay covered at all times,” he said, “and if we’re not moving, we gotta find shade and stay there.”

As Marines will tell you, “We’re not training to kill. We’re training to survive.” The protective measures taken in a training environment, albeit blazing hot, dusty and outright savage, are a facet of force preservation paramount to preparing a fighting force for success.
And yes, it rains here, too.

For more information about the warriors of the Fighting 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, visit the unit’s Web site at www.usmc.mil/13thmeu.

USS Tortuga arrives in Australia

Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Friday, June 8, 2007

The USS Tortuga arrived Wednesday in Brisbane, Australia, where sailors, midshipmen and members of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit will pause for a four-day port visit, according to a U.S. 7th Fleet news release.

To continue reading:


June 7, 2007

MILITARY: Soldier's experience nothing like on TV

CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti -- For one Ottawa native, life in Africa is much different than what is portrayed in movies.


Posted Online: 2007-06-04
Dona Fair , Army & Air Force Hometown News

When Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ryan W. Miller spoke to his mother, he didn't talk about wild animals roaming the jungle or safaris on the expansive savannah. Rather, he told his mother about people living in a garbage containers as he explained poverty in Africa.

Miller, 24, is one of more than 1,800 U.S. service members, civilians, coalition forces and partner nations taking part in the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa.

He described the living situation as unimaginable, Laurie Miller said.

"He said, 'It's not good, Mom. But don't worry about me. I'm fine," Laurie told The Times. But, of course, she still worries.

"I think there's a lot more going on over there than we know about," she said.

Ryan is working in the Horn of Africa, which includes a large portion of northeast Africa consisting of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. The task force is there to prevent conflict, promote regional stability and protect coalition interests in an attempt to prevail against extremism, a representative said.

Ryan, a base security specialist, has been deployed to this remote location for two months.

"I make sure that no one is able to gain access to the base and harm the personnel here," Ryan told the Army & Air Force Hometown News.

Living in tents, working in temperatures that reach 120 degrees or more for days on end, constant blowing dust and power outages are just a few of the many hardships Ryan and his fellow workers must endure.

"Our mission here is very important. We are here to win the hearts and minds of the local people. We are letting the terrorists know that they will not be able to control us or the way we live," explained the 2002 Ottawa Township High School graduate. "My goal is to help not only the adults, but the children also. Giving the children clothes, food and water really brightens their day. Things that we take for granted are truly a luxury for them."

Even after working many hours every day, Miller and the other military members spend some of their off-duty hours helping those in need. They donate supplies to an orphanage, help fix their facility or play a game of basketball with youngsters. They also take part in conversational English classes, which helps the native residents develop their use of the English language.

Volunteers also provide medical and veterinary information to the Djiboutians, helping them improve their quality of life by teaching them how to prevent the spread of malaria and cholera, diseases which are very prevalent.

"The Horn of Africa is a very hot place with major poverty," said Miller. "The poor people at home in the United States at least have running water, electricity and food. The poor people here don't have anything. Some of the people look like they haven't eaten in days. It really opens your eyes and makes you say 'Thank God I live in America.'"

In Africa, villagers travel with their camels and goats from Ethiopia to Somalia in the desert, by foot in the scorching heat, for hundreds of miles along camel trails that are thousands of years old, to look for drinking water. When they do find water, it most is likely contaminated and shared by animals and humans alike. After a long day of travel, they bed down amongst the palm trees in the oasis.

The military members are on a mission to give the people the education and tools needed to enable them to have a better way of life, a representative said. Activities range from drilling wells to providing clean drinking water to hosting women's health awareness days.

"I have learned that no matter how bad things may be, it can never compare to the way that the people here live," Miller said. "They are starving, have no shelter, surrounded by diseases abound and are jobless. If we weren't here, the Djiboutian people would be a lot worse than they are now."

Miller's family only hears from him occasionally; sometimes three weeks pass before he calls. When he gets the opportunity to use the phone, he calls Laurie or his grandmother, who helped raise him.

Ryan had an interest in the military since high school and joined to serve his country and to further his education through the Marines, Laurie said.

He attended Illinois Valley Community College for about a year before entering basic training in San Diego.

Ryan graduated from basic training in August 2004. He spent six months at a combat center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., and three months at a Marine Corps base in Camp Lejeune, N.C. He returned home for six months before deployment.

He may return home in mid-November. Laurie said he plans to finish his degree at IVCC and hopes to return to his job at James Hardie, where he was employed as an electrical engineer after basic training.

Purple Heart winner: 'We are in awe of him'

Marine Lance Cpl. Scott MacKenzie of Cherokee County wanted to make his mother proud after receiving a Purple Heart for injuries in Iraq.

Click on link for photo.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 06/07/07

"She is my true inspiration because she dedicates everything she has to the children she takes care of," MacKenzie said.

His mother is a special education paraprofessional at Sequoyah High School in Canton.

Nan MacKenzie said she and husband Robert and 10-year-old daughter Savannah couldn't make it to their son's Purple Heart ceremony May 10 at Camp Lejeune, N.C. The trip was beyond their budget.

MacKenzie thought if his mom could just see a picture of him with the award, that would help. She said a picture wasn't necessary — she and her husband were already proud. "I told him that he has done more in his 21 years than his dad and I have in a lifetime," Nan MacKenzie said. "We couldn't be more proud of him."

His mom was with him last week when he had surgery to repair damage from a fractured jaw. The Injured Marine Semper Fi fund, an organization that gives financial help to wounded Marines and their families, paid her traveling expenses. MacKenzie said her son's surgery was a success and she hopes he can regain the more than 30 pounds he has lost.

Scott MacKenzie was on foot patrol Oct. 29 when his unit was hit by two improvised explosive devices. The Marine next to him lost both his legs. MacKenzie fractured his jaw, took shrapnel in his left arm and face, and had a head injury.

He spent several months in a hospital in Iraq before coming home. He is currently attached to the Wounded Warrior Barracks at Camp Lejeune, where he works at the naval hospital helping injured Marines.

His mother said after her son graduated from Sequoyah High in 2004, he drifted for a while, and she rode him hard. A year after he graduated, he joined the military.

"The Marines brought out the best in him," she said. "He has transformed in front of our eyes. We are in awe of him and what he has done."

After his tour ends in two years, Scott MacKenzie said, he might stay in the Marines. He would also like to get a college degree in psychology.

"I would like to become someone who God, my family and friends can look up to and know will always be there for them," he said.

Expeditionary Airfield Techs Build, Maintain Airfields

Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 also helicopter pads in Al Taqqadum

By Cpl. Ryan R. Jackson
2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward)

AL ASAD, Iraq, June 7, 2007 — If you could spend a day with an expeditionary airfield Marine in the United States, you would see them catching fighter jets with emergency arresting gear on the flightline. In Iraq, you would see them sweep flightlines for damage and making rapid repairs to ensure a safe landing zone.

To continue reading:


Wounded Warriors receive donations from 'Good Guys'

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif.(June 7, 2007) -- The Good Guys of Morgan Run are showing Marines and Sailors how they earned their name.


Story by: Cpl. Erik Villagran

The organization raised $100,000 last year and handed out $5,000 each to 20 Marines injured in Iraq.

“Our goal is to raise $250,000 and hand out 50 checks of $5,000,” said Bob Adamson, a 59-year-old from San Diego and a member of the Good Guys group. “We also have a 24/7 emergency fund.”
Members of the organization handed out the checks to the recipients, some of whom were unable to attend because they were out of the Marine Corps or preparing for another deployment.

“Some of these people are back in training to go back,” Adamson said. “It shows they have a lot dedication and bravery.”

The men who were present let the Good Guys know that they were grateful for the gift. Each Marine and Sailor thanked the men for the effort to help them in their time of need.

“The money is going to help us with our bills,” said Sgt. Ronaldo D. Jumbo, a 24-year-old squad leader from Chinle, Ariz.

The Good Guys leave it up to the Marines on what to do with the money they received. They were just delighted to help.

The money was raised through long hours and a lot of returned calls by the Good Guys.

They held an auction and golf tournament to raise funds for the injured Marines and Sailors.

“I think it’s awesome they actually walk-the-walk and not just talk-the-talk,” said Lance Cpl. Felipe G. Pinto, a 21-year-old rifleman from Philadelphia. “A lot of people say they support the troops. These guys do it.”

Their emergency fund allows Marines struggling financially to contact them and receive up to $500.

The appreciative Marines put the money to good use.

“I have a baby on the way so it’s going to help,” Pinto said. “It shows that there are people out there that care about Marines.”

15th MEU troops return from humanitarian, combat efforts

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif.(June 7, 2007) -- Nearly nine months of humanitarian efforts and combat operations came to a welcomed halt when Marines and Sailors with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit came home May 30.


Story by: Lance Cpl. Jeffrey

The Marines were welcomed by friends and family who were anxious to reunite with their loved ones for the first time in months.

“The last eight-and-a-half months were about us,” said Col. Brian D. Beaudreault, Commanding Officer of the 15th MEU. “Now it’s about the families.”

Service members from the 15th MEU arrived at their homecoming celebration on a landing craft. The craft landed on the beach, lowered its hatch and service members quickly disembarked to charge toward their loved ones.

Lincoln Military Housing acknowledged the occasion by supplying music, food, balloons and banners for the service members.

“These Marines deserve a friendly welcome back,” said Scott Nelson, a maintenance register with Lincoln Military Housing. “We look forward to doing it again for future MEUs.”
The 15th MEU left port Sept. 13, 2006, and spent time in Singapore, India, Iraq and Australia.

“It was an outstanding deployment,” said Staff Sgt. Dorienzo L. Whatley, a postal noncommissioned officer-in-charge with Company S, Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st Marine Logistics Group. “I learned a lot.”

Despite traveling to many different areas of the globe, the unit concentrated most of their efforts in Iraq.

“The most gratifying work we did was in Iraq,” Beaudreault said. “We made a lasting impact in the areas we worked in.”


It wasn't easy for Jon Thomas to let his son go to Iraq the first time, but the second time is devastating. "I cried," Thomas said. "He volunteered to do it, but I just hope he comes back OK."


Thursday, June 7, 2007

Thomas's son, Marine Cpl. Robert Thomas, 25, of Peoria will leave his wife and 13-month-old daughter, Emma.

His first tour of duty was from August 2004 to March 2005. The soldier said the hardest part of leaving again will be missing Emma's childhood.

"I'm pretty much numb," he said. "I don't have any feelings right now."

Cpl. Thomas joined 79 other Marine Corps Reservists of Company C, 6th Engineer Support Battalion, on Wednesday afternoon at the Naval & Marine Corps Reserve Training Center in Peoria, while families gathered to ask questions and say long goodbyes. The troops will ship out for training in North Carolina and Tennessee before being sent to Iraq.

As the U.S. involvement in Iraq continues, many servicemen, including members of Charlie Company, return for a second tour of duty - more for some.

"I've been on both ends of it now," said Pfc. Andee Short, a 22-year-old sophomore at Illinois State University and Lacon resident.

Short served her first tour of duty from August 2004 to March 2005 and has mixed feelings about returning.

"It's hard to go," Short said. "But it would be so much harder having my Marines go without me. As Marines we tend to lock up and not show emotion, but leaving family is going to be difficult."

Even though she will miss home, Short said, she is proud of her service.

"I'm really glad I went the first time," she said. "Every day you feel like you're accomplishing something, even the most minor chore. You know you're working towards something bigger."

Maj. David Haney, the unit's commanding officer, said the company primarily will be constructing and clearing obstacles and improving roads.

"A small amount of Marines do this, and they are in very in high demand," Haney said. "It's going to be a challenge, no doubt about that, but we will return with a newfound appreciation for our liberties."

Lance Cpl. Jason Hubrich, 22, of Lacon, whose first tour of duty was from September 2004 to June 2005, was on his way to get married Wednesday evening before leaving.

"She knew when we got together it was always a possibility," Hubrich said of his wife-to-be. "But going makes you appreciate what we have here so much more."

"We leave behind our families and friends and we hate to go," Haney said. "But the support we've gotten from the Peoria community is overwhelming, and I sure do hope it continues."

June 6, 2007

CAAT, LAR platoons hit enemy hard during raid training

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (June 6, 2007) -- Marines from Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Camp Pendleton, began a week-long training exercise at Fire Base Gloria here designed to train Marines to conduct raids on terrorist targets from the air, land and sea.


June 6, 2007; Submitted on: 06/06/2007 10:38:27 AM ; Story ID#: 200766103827
By - 11th MEU Public Affairs, 11th MEU

According to instructors from the Marine Corps Special Operations Training Group, I Marine Expeditionary Unit, here, the Combined Anti-Armor Team (CAAT) and Light Armored Reconnaissance (LAR) Platoons of BLT 1/5 are learning how to work as a team to hit the enemy hard, fast and with lethal force. Using scenarios modeled after real and possible future operations, the Marines are training to hit suspected terrorist training facilities suspected of manufacturing improvised explosive devices, rocket propelled grenades and small arms.

The exercises are part of the 11th MEU’s pre-deployment training in preparation for their upcoming deployment later this year. To read more about the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit visit their website at http://www.usmc.mil/11thmeu

3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Essex Amphibious Ready Group experience land ‘down under’

BRISBANE, Australia (June 6, 2007) -- The streets were full of bustle after more than 4,000 Marines and Sailors from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade embarked on three ships of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group arrived at the port here, June 6, for a little rest and relaxation.


June 6, 2007; Submitted on: 06/13/2007 11:50:15 AM ; Story ID#: 2007613115015
By Cpl. Kamran Sadaghiani , 31st MEU

The visit was a precursor to participating in Exercise Talisman Saber 2007, an exercise for U.S. and Australian forces to conduct combined/joint operations and increase interoperability.
During liberty, service members took advantage of the city’s best dining, shopping and tourist activities while others spent their off time volunteering for several community outreach projects.

“The best part of the visit was the friendliness of the Brisbane community,” explained Col. John Mayer, the MEU commanding officer. “Whether it was downtown, shopping in restaurants, out at the zoo or out in the countryside, everybody welcomed us with open arms. They were very friendly and they took our Marines and Sailors in and treated them like family.”

Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, has often been regarded as Australia’s most livable city, according to travel Web sites across the Internet. Its subtropical climate makes Brisbane the perfect venue for a wide range of outdoor activities for Marines and Sailors. The city’s reputation seemed to leave its mark on some service members.

“Brisbane is such a beautiful city and there is so much to do,” said Gunnery Sgt. Stephan Williams, the administrative chief of the MEU. “The night life was great, the people are very hospitable and the scenery is gorgeous.”

The Morale, Welfare and Recreation representatives of the Essex ARG arranged a variety of planned events for those in search of Australia’s best adventures. The service members went on local tours to theme parks, horse riding excursions, spirits tasting venues, scuba diving and fishing packages. The city itself offered other popular attractions such as art galleries, theaters, casinos, shopping malls and restored historical buildings.

While there were plenty of leisurely activities for the Marines and Sailors to take part in, some service members dedicated their liberty hours to helping the local community. The projects included providing horticultural support for the Australia Zoo, spending time with the elderly at the Sinnamon Village retirement home and interacting with children at the Brisbane Grammar School, one of the city’s oldest schools, explained Cathy McMahon, the school’s registrar.

The Marines and Sailors, who volunteered to spend a day with the school’s students, learned about Australian culture and answered questions regarding their military experiences.

“This is a great opportunity for us to interact with the local community and we thank you,” said Navy Cmdr. Alfonso J. Concha, the MEU chaplain.

The school’s staff planned a list of activities, which included a game of basketball between the Marines and Sailors and the varsity basketball team; the school team being the victor.

“The most memorable moment today was when the kids started rooting for us when we were losing,” said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jimmy Henson, a religious program specialist with the MEU, and a native of Amarillo, Texas.

At the end of the day, Staff Sgt. Richard S. Lopez, a native of Garden Grove, Calif., said “the students were so hospitable, generous and not shy to ask questions. It was a good opportunity and I was glad to help and be a part of today’s events.”

Although the Marines and Sailors have enjoyed their time in the city, many were anxiously waiting to return once again.

“The visit was short but sweet,” said Williams. “I definitely want to come back again some time.”

The Essex ARG, consisting of the USS Essex (LHD 2), USS Tortuga (LSD 46) and USS Juneau (LPD 10), embarked with Marines of the 3d MEB, was in Brisbane prior to what will be the start of the at-sea component of Talisman Saber. The exercise, involving more than 32,000 military members from both nations, is designed to improve interoperability and enhance the military alliance between the U.S. and Australian nations.

June 5, 2007

ANGLICO Marines tackle tower

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (June 5, 2007) -- Marines from 2nd Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, II Marine Expeditionary Force, took on the rappel tower here June 5 in preparation for a deployment to Iraq.


June 5, 2007; Submitted on: 06/18/2007 03:06:53 PM ; Story ID#: 200761815653
By Lance Cpl. Katie Mathison, II Marine Expeditionary Force

The morning began with a class covering how to tie the harness, hold the rope, stop descending, and other basic rappel techniques. One of the main focuses of the class was how to brake. The Marines were taught how to brake by positioning their arms either in the small of their back, at three o’clock, or at noon straight in front of them.

The class also covered how to be the belay person, the Marine who is at the bottom of the tower holding the rappel rope. If a Marine begins to descend too quickly, the belay man moves away from the wall forcing the rapeller to stop.

Even after the classes, several Marines were apprehensive about the rappel tower.

“This is my first time doing this,” said Pfc. Ryan Mcgregor, a fire support man, with the company. “I didn’t do this in boot camp.”

The Marines put on their harnesses and headed up to the top of the tower. At the top of the tower, many Marines became nervous as they got closer to the edge of the tower.

“I wasn’t nervous until I got up there, and then it hit me,” said Sgt. Brian Landrum, a fire support man with the company.

The first two rappels were slick runs, rappels without extra gear. Then the Marines added flack jackets and a pack weighing more than 25 pounds. The added weight was to give the Marines a better idea of what the situation would be like in combat.

“It was harder to stop with the extra gear,” Mcgregor said. “The extra weight made maintaining footing and balancing a challenge.”

The next portion of the tower involved rappelling from a skid, simulating rappelling from a helicopter. This portion of the training was particularly important to the company.

“This training is so we can support a recon unit, an Army unit or any other unit who is going in aerially,” said Capt. Justin Twigg, a helicopter rope suspension training master with the company. “We can go with them the first chance we have. So they don’t have to train us. Everyone will already know the basics.”

The final part of the rappel tower was the fast rope. The Marines were issued bright red leather gloves specifically for the fast rope. Then they were shown how to maintain three points with of contact on the rope with their boots, thighs and hands.

The Marines jumped from the tower to the rope in sticks of five Marines. One Marine jumped after the other about seven seconds apart to simulate aerial assaults. The Marines were instructed to spread their legs apart so they could easily absorb the impact of the fall. Then they would quickly move from the area of the rope, so the next Marine would not land on top of them.

The training the Marines received on the tower helped prepare the company for any possible aerial operations in Iraq.

“This training will prepare them for raids with special insertion,” Twigg said. “We can go in with a combat load and flack and be able to do it in a combat environment.”

The training also has another positive side effect. Outside of keeping the Marines alive it helps with their morale.

“This is good for the Marines and their confidence,” Lanrum said. “It’s really good for such a small unit, and it’s good for team building.”

Task Force Military Police ensures dignified treatment of prisoners in Iraq

AL ASAD, Iraq (June 5, 2007) -- When service members think of military police, they think of those who stand guard at gates or drive around trying to maintain order, but while in Iraq there is a group of Marines that have a different mission.


June 5, 2007; Submitted on: 06/05/2007 04:52:29 AM ; Story ID#: 20076545229
By Sgt. Anthony Guas, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (FWD)

The Marines of Bravo Battery, Task Force Military Police, 1st Battalion, 12th Marines, are responsible for the security and handling of detainees at the Regional Detention Facilities in the Al Anbar province.

“We have Marines working 12 to 16-hour shifts doing everything from guard force to reactionary force,” said 1st Sgt. Melvin Chandler, the Bravo Battery first sergeant. “They are also responsible for the movement of detainees to different RDFs, medical and anywhere they need to go.”

The Marines of Bravo Battery are playing an important role in the future of the Iraqi government.

“We have an essential mission because we will hand this over to the Iraqi government,” said 1st Lt. Roe Lemons, the Bravo Battery executive officer. “They need to be able to run their own prisons.”

Bravo Battery is in charge of three RDFs, located in Al Asad, Ramadi and Fallujah.

“The Marines are responsible for the processing of detainees when they arrive to moving them around,” said Lemons. “They have to make sure that they prepare the detainees for either release or transfer.”

About 50 percent of the Marines who man the RDFs are individual augments to Bravo Battery, according to Chandler.

“We have a wide range of Marines,” said Chandler. “We have 42 different (military occupational specialties), anywhere from cooks to amtrackers. But they are doing an outstanding job for not being correctional Marines.”

Although a large majority of Bravo Battery is comprised of individual augments, there are still correctional specialists there to ensure everything runs smoothly.

“I am in charge of the procedural operations, everything from how the guard force operates to the physical security,” said Sgt. Michael Bigley, a correctional specialist and security chief for Bravo Battery. “I am like the check and balance. I walk through and make sure that the Marines are doing the right thing.”

Although security is very important, so is the humane treatment of all detainees, according to Chandler.

“We have to treat everyone equally and make sure that we are transferring the right ones to good citizens,” said Chandler. “We don’t want to put insurgents back on the streets. We want to treat the detainees right so that when we release them they have a better respect for coalition forces.”

The Marines rotate through various posts in the RDF, which range from catwalks to control points. Just like standing guard in various posts in the Corps, Marines have to battle the same thing, complacency.

“The Marines are doing an outstanding job for how young they are,” said Chandler. “The toughest part of the day is having to just sit and watch the detainees.”
Although the job may become mundane, the Marines continue to stay on their toes and for the most part enjoy their duty.

“I really enjoy the job because it is something totally different than what I expected to do,” said Lance Cpl. Mikell Yound, a field wireman by trade currently attached to Bravo Battery. “It shows how versatile we can be as Marines.”
Just like the worker ants are responsible for the success of the colony, the junior Marines play a pivotal role for Bravo Battery.

“At the end of the day, I know that I can go back to my room satisfied knowing that I have bettered the Marines,” said Bigely. “I know that I have not only given them the tools to properly handle detainees, but life-long skills. The true success and big part of this is the junior Marines, it all works because of them.”

HumaneTreatment of Prisoners in Iraq

AL ASAD, Iraq -- When servicemembers think of military police, they think of those who stand guard at gates or drive around trying to maintain order, but while in Iraq there is a group of Marines that have a different mission.


Marine Corps News

June 05, 2007

The Marines of Bravo Battery, Task Force Military Police, 1st Battalion, 12th Marines, are responsible for the security and handling of detainees at the Regional Detention Facilities in the Al Anbar province.

“We have Marines working 12- to 16-hour shifts doing everything from guard force to reactionary force,” said 1st Sgt. Melvin Chandler, the Bravo Battery first sergeant. “They are also responsible for the movement of detainees to different RDFs, medical and anywhere they need to go.”

The Marines of Bravo Battery are playing an important role in the future of the Iraqi government.

“We have an essential mission because we will hand this over to the Iraqi government,” said 1st Lt. Roe Lemons, the Bravo Battery executive officer. “They need to be able to run their own prisons.”

Bravo Battery is in charge of three RDFs, located in Al Asad, Ramadi and Fallujah.

“The Marines are responsible for the processing of detainees when they arrive to moving them around,” said Lemons. “They have to make sure that they prepare the detainees for either release or transfer.”

About 50 percent of the Marines who man the RDFs are individual augments to Bravo Battery, according to Chandler.

“We have a wide range of Marines,” said Chandler. “We have 42 different (military occupational specialties), anywhere from cooks to amtrackers. But they are doing an outstanding job for not being correctional Marines.”

Although a large majority of Bravo Battery is comprised of individual augments, there are still correctional specialists there to ensure everything runs smoothly.

“I am in charge of the procedural operations, everything from how the guard force operates to the physical security,” said Sgt. Michael Bigley, a correctional specialist and security chief for Bravo Battery. “I am like the check and balance. I walk through and make sure that the Marines are doing the right thing.”

Although security is very important, so is the humane treatment of all detainees, according to Chandler.

“We have to treat everyone equally and make sure that we are transferring the right ones to good citizens,” said Chandler. “We don’t want to put insurgents back on the streets. We want to treat the detainees right so that when we release them they have a better respect for coalition forces.”

The Marines rotate through various posts in the RDF, which range from catwalks to control points. Just like standing guard in various posts in the Corps, Marines have to battle the same thing, complacency.

“The Marines are doing an outstanding job for how young they are,” said Chandler. “The toughest part of the day is having to just sit and watch the detainees.”

Although the job may become mundane, the Marines continue to stay on their toes and for the most part enjoy their duty.

“I really enjoy the job because it is something totally different than what I expected to do,” said Lance Cpl. Mikell Yound, a field wireman by trade currently attached to Bravo Battery. “It shows how versatile we can be as Marines.”

Just like the worker ants are responsible for the success of the colony, the junior Marines play a pivotal role for Bravo Battery.

“At the end of the day, I know that I can go back to my room satisfied knowing that I have bettered the Marines,” said Bigely. “I know that I have not only given them the tools to properly handle detainees, but life-long skills. The true success and big part of this is the junior Marines, it all works because of them.”

June 4, 2007

Hard work, dedication keys to success for Hitchens, Ky., Marine

ALBU HAWA, Iraq (June 4, 2007) -- The language differences between Arabic and English often impede Marines when they try and interact with the Iraqi people. Interpreters who speak both languages are often in short supply, leaving Marines with no way of holding a proper conversation. Luckily both sides make the effort to breach that communication barrier. Most Iraqis have learned broken English and nearly every Marine knows a few words of Arabic. Iraqis are often able to converse with Marines in the “pointy talky” fashion using a mix of Arabic and English and gesturing at what they want. However, these one or two word conversations are limited.


June 4, 2007; Submitted on: 06/04/2007 01:04:51 AM ; Story ID#: 2007641451
By Lance Cpl. Christopher Zahn, Regimental Combat Team 6

One Marine from L Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment is seeking to improve that situation. Lance Cpl. Kyle M. Stewart, 22. from Hitchens, Ky., has put intensive effort into learning the Arabic language to the point where he can converse easily with the Iraqis he comes into contact with on a daily basis.

He began learning the language during his first deployment to Iraq from a close friend of his, Lance Cpl. Daniel F. Swaim. Swaim would later be killed while conducting combat operations in Anbar Province.

“He was a good friend of mine,” said Stewart. “He went to the (Survival Level Arabic Course) and had been teaching me some things in Arabic. I wanted to finish what he was doing.”

Since he was still in Iraq when he made that promise, he couldn’t learn in a traditional school setting. He had to learn on the street from the people themselves. Indeed, Stewart has never had any official education in Arabic. Every word he knows is the result of many exasperating conversations in a hodgepodge mix of Arabic and English.

“It was hard at first,” said the 2004 John Bowne High School graduate. “Once I figured out how to say ‘Shinu’ or what, I would point at something and say ‘what’ and they would say it in Arabic and I would write it down.”

It was still a slow learning process. Patrolling through the streets meant there was not always time to sit down and have a chat to learn a new word; there were more important concerns. Stewart got a helping hand from some allies to keep improving his skills.

“It took probably about five months (to become conversant) from when I started,” added Stewart. “A big help was when we started working hand-in-hand with the Iraqi Army. Some of them spoke pretty good English so that helped a lot.”

Now that he is back in Iraq for a second time, Stewart has become a valuable asset to his squad. He is a trained infantry Marine first and interpreter second, which gives his squad the benefit of not having to be responsible for an untrained interpreter in a combat zone. As one of the senior Marines in the squad he also has the responsibility of being a fire-team leader.

“I fought to get him (in my squad), then I put him as a team leader,” said Cpl. Steven C. Szopa, 28, from Columbia, Mo. “Some people didn’t like that decision but he’s proved himself to me. He was the first one I chose for my squad. They gave his name up and I instantly said I’ll take him.”

One reason for choosing Stewart was that people readily opened up to him in ways they wouldn’t to an interpreter. Once they get over the initial shock of a Marine speaking Arabic the people are usually friendly.

“The people’s first reaction is always one of surprise,” said Stewart. “They tell me ‘Oh you speak Arabic very good!’ They’re happy; it’s like an honor to them that someone from another country is working to learn Arabic.”

“You just don’t get that reaction with an interpreter,” said Szopa, the squad leader for 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon. “With a Marine you get a much better reception.”

Charlie Company blocks Euphrates River to insurgents in Al Rafta

AL RAFTA, Iraq (June 4, 2007) -- The quiet current of the Euphrates River was interrupted by a low hum. Two men in a small fishing boat moved along the river. Unseen to the fishermen, Marines stood alongside a crumbling aqueduct waving the men to the shore. Any insurgents moving along the Euphrates River that day were trapped.


June 4, 2007; Submitted on: 06/04/2007 05:37:04 AM ; Story ID#: 2007645374
By Lance Cpl. Eric C. Schwartz, 2nd Marine Division

The Marines of third platoon, Charlie Company, Task Force 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 2, blocked the Euphrates River access while Weapons Company 1/4, searched houses north of the river for insurgents.

“We were intercepting anyone trying to flee from the north side of the Euphrates into the south side,” said Cpl. Shawn Atwood, a squad leader with third platoon, Charlie Company.

The citizens of Al Rafta normally fished in the Euphrates River but during the day’s search, they were asked to pull up to the shore where third platoon searched their boats.

“Most locals we met supported us and understood we were there to help them during the search,” Atwood said.

The friendly locals provided freshly cooked bread and offered their boats to the Marines for movement along the river.

“I wanted to see all the avenues of approach along the river,” Atwood said. “And I wanted to observe any boat-landing-sites along the river to pass to my superiors during the mission’s debrief.”

No insurgents were found on the river that day.

“It seemed a lot of the people here were just honest fishermen trying to make an honest living,” said Cpl. Justin Rubley, a team leader with third platoon, Charlie Company.

Fishermen moved along the river during the day and seemed happy to help the Marines in their mission.

“Letting the locals know why we were there eased their minds and they became friendly, allowing us to use their boats in the future,” Atwood said.

Securing the small fishing town of Al Rafta was equally important to securing the large bustling city of Baghdad.

“Small farming towns like Al Rafta are right in the middle of the road where insurgents transport weapons and IED making materials to the larger cities,” said Lance Cpl. Daniel Moore, a machine gun team leader with third platoon, Charile Company.

Foreign fighters smuggling weapons into Iraq hide weapons caches in small towns by bribing locals or threatening them with fear and intimidation tactics.

“There will be less civilian and coalition deaths in larger populated areas such as Baghdad, Ramadi and Fallujah if we cut off the enemies supply routes,” Moore said.

The serenity and safety of the small, river town was recognized by the Marines, but it wasn’t a time for them to remove their body armor and helmets.

“This place is quiet and a prototype for Iraq,” Moore said. “But we still need to be vigilant and prepared for anything.”

Charlie Marines searched along the Euphrates River while Al Rafta’s locals provided boats for Marines to use, an example of Marines and locals working together to search for the insurgency plaguing Iraq.

“Getting rid of this insurgency lets the people of Al Rafta go back to a normal way of life,” Rubley said. “This is what they want and this is why we help them.”

SBISD graduates recovering from suicide truck bombing in Iraq

There’s happy and lucky to be alive, and then there’s the suicide bombing story that Marines Eric Morante and Steven May, both Spring Branch ISD graduates, will tell for years to come after serving in Iraq.


Cpl. Eric Morante, 22, a 2003 graduate of Spring Woods High School, and Lance Cpl. Steven May, 20, a 2005 graduate of Memorial High School, were injured on April 20 when the highway overpass that eight members of their platoon were guarding became the target for an insurgent suicide attack.

A bomber steered a large truck toward the highway overpass and detonated an estimated 3,000 pounds of explosives almost directly under the outpost.

The deadly attack occurred just minutes after two chaplains had visited the members of the 2nd Battalion 7th Marines Fox Company 3rd Platoon. A Mass had just been said for several Marines who are Roman Catholic.

One moment, seven Marines and a Navy corpsman were at their post, protected by sandbags and huge metal plates and two heavy machine guns. In the next instant, the blast threw the soldiers skyward along with shrapnel, concrete, solid steel plates and other rubble. Before the dust settled, six of them lay wounded at the scene.

The young Marines’ duty, ironically, was to guard a six-lane superhighway like the Katy Freeway and prevent Iraqi insurgents from placing improvised roadside bombs, or IEDs, along the busy route.

The Iraqi resistance is widely viewed to be stronger in Anbar Province than in any other province in Iraq, and hostility toward coalition forces there has been fierce.

Since the April 20 bombing, Infantry Squad Leader Morante’s right leg has been amputated and he has undergone seven surgeries to repair a shattered wrist and forearm, as well as facial fractures.

Eric Morante and family
His mother, Housman Elementary School head custodian Maria Espinoza, a 34-year SBISD employee, has remained with him at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. She will retire this month and stay with him during rehabilitation.

The Spring Woods High graduate also attended Spring Woods Middle and Woodview Elementary schools. His sister, Gabriela, a junior, attends Spring Woods High.

Eric enlisted in the Marines in July 2003 and had just begun his third deployment in Iraq when the bombing occurred. He blacked out after the initial blast, but forced himself to remain conscious despite massive bleeding until he knew that other members of the platoon’s company had arrived to help his injured men.

His face was shattered by a piece of the overpass, which landed on top of him.

“I’m still upset that we were hit, but I do believe that it is a miracle that we are all alive. That explosion should have killed us at the scene, and if I was given a choice to lose my right leg or die, I’d gladly lose my right leg,” he said in a telephone interview.

No stranger to combat, he has fought in Fallujah City, also in Anbar Province, and led patrols that resulted in the capture of several “high value targets,” or known Iraqi insurgents.

As platoon squad leader, his priority remains with the injured, especially Navy Corpsman Anthony Thompson of Humble, who suffered head injuries and remains in a medically induced coma.

The injured Marines were medevaced immediately to field hospitals near Baghdad, and then to military hospitals in Germany and the United States. The men are split today between treatment centers on the East and West coasts, but stay in touch through phone calls and email.

Cpl. Morante may be moved soon to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

Steven May and family
Lance Cpl. Steven May, who was closest to the explosion, suffered a compression fracture of the back. He was treated for two collapsed lungs, had surgery for a badly broken shoulder and is recovering still from several rib fractures.

A defensive goalkeeper on the Memorial High soccer team for four years, Steven enlisted in October 2005, several months after graduating. He was deployed to Iraq at the end of January and stationed in Anbar.

The lance corporal believes that his Kevlar body vest and large metal plates used to protect the military post from mortars may have helped save him in the blast, which threw him about 20 yards from his bridge posting. He was initially pinned under a metal plate.

“I landed face down on top of rebar and concrete, and started coughing up blood and dirt. I tried to keep calm,” he recalls. Steven did not lose consciousness until medical personnel finally sedated him. He woke up 36 hours later in a Baghdad-area military hospital.

“What happened to us could have happened to anyone. I’m happy that it happened to me and not one of my other buddies. I was blessed,” Steven said recently.

He doesn’t believe that his lack of more traumatic injuries means that he has been given a “second chance,” as it’s often said. “I didn’t screw up or do something wrong. It was not my time to go. This is telling me that I have more living to do,” he says.

Julia May, his mother, a choir teacher at Spring Oaks Middle School, acted like a Marine Mom when her teenage daughter, Sarah, also a Spring Br5anch student, reported urgently that a military officer had called their home and left his call back number. Julia assured her that Steven wasn’t dead: That information is shared person to person, not by telephone.

Julia and her husband soon learned that their oldest son had been injured in a suicide bombing, but little more. She later joined her son at Bethesda and then joined him to fly home on May 13.

Lance Cpl. May will be home 30 days and then will be re-evaluated. His full recovery and rehabilitation may take months. If not discharged for medical reasons, he may be redeployed, however. He plans to attend college after his Marine service obligation is fulfilled.

Spring Branch greeted the first Marine home like a true hero. “Our entire neighborhood was out. It was incredible,” Steven says, describing the scene in his family’s Spring Shadows neighborhood as he returned home on the evening of May 13.

“Steven came home to a subdivision lined with flags and neighbors – it was amazing,” Julia, his mother, says. “It meant so much to Steven and to us all. I also think it meant a lot to our friends and neighbors to show the support that we hear isn’t out there.

“It’s obvious to us now as a ‘military family’ that no matter what opinions are held about the wars in the Middle East, the support for our troops is strong. This message will be carried to all of Steven’s buddies still in the hospital and in Iraq, and that is the best kind of goodie we can send them,” Julia wrote in a recent email.

A benefit was held recently in Humble for Navy Corpsman Anthony “Doc” Thompson, who is still in an intensive care unit.

Cpl. Eric Morante, Lance Cpl. Steven May and the platoon’s other injured servicemen – Cpl. John Mendez, Lance Cpl. David Volk, and Lance Cpl. Brandon Mendez – may be supported with cards and letters or other services through the following site: www.operationpal.com.

China Marines keep vigilant eye on town

AL AMARI, Iraq (June 4, 2007) -- The Marines of fourth platoon, Charlie Company, Task Force 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 2, patrolled the town of Al Amari at dusk, showing its citizens the Marines were in the area. Later, during the hours of darkness, fourth platoon snuck into an abandoned building and performed patrols searching for enemy activity keeping the small farming town safe from insurgency.


June 4, 2007; Submitted on: 06/04/2007 10:56:56 AM ; Story ID#: 200764105656
By Lance Cpl. Eric C. Schwartz, 2nd Marine Division

“The first thing we did was occupy an abandoned building as an observation post at night,” said Cpl. Brent Jackson, a squad leader with Charlie Company, TF 1/4.

Across town another section of fourth platoon set up an observation post thus covering the entire town with the two posts.

The overall TF 1/4 operation was in support of Operation Harris Ba’sil, meant to disrupt insurgent activities in towns like Al Amari.

“We were watching both sides of the Euphrates River letting the Marines at the clinic know if there were any enemies in the area,” said Sgt. Arthur Ruiz, a section leader with Charlie Company, TF 1/4.

Insurgents have used darkness to plant improvised explosive devices, ambush coalition forces and use weapon caches since the beginning of the war. Marines counteract the enemy’s methods by having a constant watch.

“We wanted to see what the town does at night because things can be much different than during the day,” Jackson said.

The patrolling Marines were not alone in their search for weapons caches because of good communication between the two observation posts.

“We had line-of-sight with the other OP so we could communicate back and forth,” Ruiz said.

The Marines had a constant watchful eye as they patrolled the town, even if the town’s local population were unaware of its friendly neighbors.

“Not everybody knew we were there, but we watch everything day or night,” Jackson said.

Observing the small town kept its residence safe but also allowed a strong force to react if any problems arose.

“If observation is kept, you know what goes in and out of the town, so you can react quickly if needed,” Jackson said.

Al Amari’s townspeople stayed safe that night while fourth platoon watched over them.

“The appearance of Marines keeps the bad guys in check,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Anderson, a platoon commander with Charlie Company, TF 1/4.

“Our presence and working with the locals makes them feel safer,” Anderson said. “They are less likely to work for the insurgents.”

“These inhabitants have lost a lot of people from insurgent attacks so they know who the enemy is now,” Anderson said.

Silence broke at dawn, not by gunfire or enemy movement, but by roosters cawing, telling everyone a new day has risen. The nocturnal Marines packed up their gear and left the town. They will be back again; making sure the insurgents have no place to hide in the small farming town of Al Amari.

June 3, 2007

Red Cross: Scam targeting military families

By Bryce S. Dubee, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Sunday, June 3, 2007

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — People are posing as American Red Cross representatives in an attempt to obtain personal information from families of deployed servicemembers, the Red Cross is warning.

To continue reading:


Marine's dog needs ride to Oregon

A dog named Jeff has his paw out to hitch a ride to Oregon. The dog belongs to Sean Wiley, a private first class stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma who deployed to Iraq in March. He left the dog with a friend in Yuma, expecting to return by October.



June 3, 2007

Once in Iraq, however, Sean Wiley volunteered to extend his deployment for seven more months, said his brother, Ben Wiley, who lives in Oregon.

Especially now that Jeff's owner is looking at being gone for a year, "we've decided that moving him to Oregon would be a better arrangement," said Ben Wiley, who plans to take care of his brother's dog.

He's hoping someone headed that way will let Jeff hitch a ride.

"I'm looking for anyone who would be able to help in getting Jeff up here to Oregon ... someone who is heading this way who might want to help out. I want to avoid the trip to get the dog if I can."

Ben Wiley lives in Milwaukie, Ore., near Portland.

Jeff is a golden labrador/shepherd mix not quite a year old.

June 2, 2007

Plaza honors Marine, others killed in Iraq

From childhood, Brad Squires dreamed of being two things: a Marine and firefighter.


Saturday, June 02, 2007
Grant Segall
Plain Dealer Reporter

So he joined the reserves, hoping to do both.

But one duty got in the way of the other. The Marine fell before the firefighter arose.

The Iraq war has cut short the dreams of some 140 Ohio warriors and their families so far. But Squires' family is trying to keep those dreams alive.

The Cpl. Brad Squires Plaza will be dedicated today in the namesake's hometown, Middleburg Heights. Instead of just honoring Squires, 26, the plaza will commemorate all Ohio military personnel lost in Iraq.

Squires' mother, Donna, considers all of the Buckeye fallen to be family. Many relatives of the lost have met and grown close.

"We went through the same disbelief, the same grief," she says.

Angelo Nuzzo, a memorial trus tee and safety director of Brook Park, says, "It's heart- warming to see the way the fam ily has put their energies into memorializing their son and his fallen comrades."

The plaza is a rose garden, a living tribute to a young man full of life. Squires raced cars. He sang with a band. He played football at Berea High School. He loved to joke and make friends. His favorite word was a drawn- out "beau-ti-ful."

The family has often served the nation. Donna is an information supervisor for the Department of Veterans Affairs. An uncle was in the National Guard. A relative by marriage lost a brother in Vietnam.

But Donna doesn't think Brad needed these influences. He seemed born to fight for his country. As a toddler, he loved to wear camouflage and deploy toy soldiers.

In 1999, Squires joined the 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment, 4th Marine Division. The reserve unit is based in Brook Park, next to Middleburg Heights, and has an administrative company there. But Squires joined the bat talion's Weapons Company in Akron, partly to see more action.

Meanwhile, he held several jobs and started to study firefighting at Lorain County Community College. He lived in Grafton and spent a lot of time with his family, all nearby, including a big brother, Chad; a big sister, Jodie Bogdan; two nieces, and a nephew.

In 2005, the 3/25 got orders to fight in Iraq. A month before leaving, Squires married Julie Brandyberry.

The deployment proved to be one of America's bloodiest. But Squires made friends there. He posed for videos with Iraqi children. And he usually beat his comrades at Texas hold 'em. He earned many medals, including a Purple Heart.

On June 9, Squires told Julie by telephone that he believed in the war and planned to re-enlist. That day, his Humvee hit a roadside bomb, killing him and two comrades.

Says Donna, "They told us he died with a smile on his face."

For a couple of weeks, Squires' comrades avoided Texas hold 'em. They finally decided to play again in his memory.

The battalion's bloodiest days were yet to come. It lost six men on Aug. 1 and 14 on Aug. 3, in the last and worst of its losses. All told, 48 members did not come home.

Early in its grief, the Squires family started planning the memorial. It has raised $65,000 so far, a little short of the plaza's cost.

The plaza stands outside Old Oak Bible Church. Squires belonged to a different church, St. Mary Roman Catholic in Berea. But the Squires family gladly accepted land close to home.

"What better use could you put this piece of land to?" asks Old Oak's pastor, the Rev. Dave Butler.

Already, someone has left potted flowers and an unsigned note at the plaza: "Forever remembering, respecting and honoring."

The family hopes many others will visit and remember. A sound system will offer a choice of 10 patriotic or religious songs, from "The Star-Spangled Banner" to "Amazing Grace."

The plaza also has a black granite monument to Squires and a red granite bench for each of the five branches of service. It has a bronze plaque with the names of the dead for each of the war's four completed years so far. And it has room for more plaques.

"Unfortunately," says Jodie Bogdan, "this gets bigger and bigger each year."

But the family stands with Brad behind the increasingly unpopular war.

"The public has to realize that none of these young men and women died in vain," says Donna. "They are fighting for our freedom. One hundred percent, they're going to make a difference for us."

Marines, Middle Easterners mount combined assault during desert exercise

MIDDLE EAST (June 2, 2007) -- Marines and sailors from Companies E and G, Battalion Landing Team 2/2, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, wrapped up seven days of bilateral training, here, May 28.


June 2, 2007; Submitted on: 06/02/2007 01:22:12 AM ; Story ID#: 20076212212
By Cpl. Jeremy Ross, 26th MEU

The exercise marked the fourth time during the MEU's current deployment that the battalion has trained alongside a foreign force, and the second such endeavor conducted with a military from this region.

During the exercise the companies partnered-up with similar units from the regional force to carry-out a training schedule that focused on enhancing their squad, platoon and company-level attacks.

As the training got underway, the companies and their Middle Eastern counterparts spent a day rehearsing tactics unique to their designations as the MEU's helicopter and motorized raid forces.

"Any time you can train on your primary insertion platform, it's beneficial to your Marines," said Capt. Tim S. Brady, Jr., commanding officer of Co. E and a Fairfax, Va., native.

The initial training had the added benefit of jump-starting friendly working relations between the two nations' forces that would last through the rest of the exercise.

"It took our Marines and the (foreign troops) all of about 30 seconds to start laughing and joking together in the way that all infantrymen do," said Brady.

The rest of the training was structured around incremental, live-fire unit attacks, progressing from squad-sized actions to assaults involving entire companies.

These evolutions were beneficial to the companies in that they got the Marines back to doing the things they do best, said 1st Lt. James J. Wissmann, a platoon commander from Co. G and a Fairfax, Va., native.

"This was a great refresher on basic infantry skills," he stated. "It was all about maintaining the combat mindset, because while we may be five months into this deployment, we still need to be ready for whatever may come our way."

The ramp-up approach to the unit attacks helped build leadership skills within the companies as well.

"It was a good opportunity to lead a unit in an attack," said Sgt. Steve T. Dunn, a squad leader from Co. G and a St. Louis native. "Working together like we did here is great for building the camaraderie and small-unit unit cohesion you need to have in an infantry unit."

These small-unit gains are pivotal in preparing the units for possible future actions in today's conflicts, said Wissman.

"The fight on the battlefields of (the Global War on Terrorism) is geared towards the squad level, so anytime you get a rifle unit out to train together its good," he explained.

Sharpening their battle skills alongside the Middle Eastern troops provided benefits to the Marines that reached beyond combat readiness, said Brady.

"Its good for our Marines to cultivate relationships with foreign militaries," he observed. "It's good for them to understand that (other nations' forces) are made up of people doing their jobs, just like we are."

The troops took advantage of the wide-open, expansive ranges here to get the most from their training.

"A lot of the ranges we train on back in the (United States) are more limiting because they are smaller in size," said Lance Cpl. Matthew R. Hornibrook, a rifleman from Co. G and a Detroit native. "The stuff we got to do here was different because it was larger than the squad-level stuff we typically work with."

The open terrain enabled the troops to unleash massive, company sized-attacks as the exercise neared completion.

"Launching big attacks like we did is an unbelievable experience," said Wissmann. "It's awesome to break out all of our assets and see the kind of firepower we bring to the table in action."

After honing their skills on the practice ranges, the Marines and their counterparts from the regional military participated in a massive, final demonstration that implemented everything they had covered in the course of the exercise.

The demonstration included motorized and helicopter-borne assaults, artillery and mortar strikes and close-air support from both nations' militaries.

"The final exercise was a complete success," said Brady. "It demonstrated the level of coordination and planning we had achieved during our training, and our ability to execute combined operations."

With the training complete, the Marines and Middle Eastern troops gathered to celebrate their achievements and camaraderie with a warrior's night that featured authentic Middle Eastern cuisine. Following the meal, many of the troops gathered to exchange gifts and farewells.

"It's always good to go somewhere you've never been, and take something away from the experience," said Lance Cpl. Samuel A. Fonseca, a rifleman from Co. E and a Boston native.

"We all have something to learn from each other," agreed Brady.

The 26th MEU is currently in the fifth month of a routine, scheduled deployment that began Jan. 6 as the landing force for the Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group.

In addition to BLT 2/2, the MEU is composed of its Command Element; Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-264 (Reinforced); and Combat Logistics Battalion-26.

For more on the MEU, including news, videos and contact information, visit www.usmc.mil/26thmeu.

June 1, 2007

CBIRF Marines remember Medal of Honor recipient

NEW YORK (May 23, 2007)— (June 1, 2007) -- As America celebrates the Armed Forces at Fleet Week New York 2007, an annual celebration of the nation’s men and women in uniform, the memory of one Marine still lingers amongst the ranks of thousands of United States Marines.


June 1, 2007; Submitted on: 06/01/2007 03:45:35 PM ; Story ID#: 200761154535
By Cpl. Leslie Palmer, II Marine Expeditionary Force

Cpl. Jason Dunham made the ultimate selfless sacrifice when he shielded a group of fellow Marines from a grenade, covering it with his helmet and jumping on top of it.

Dunham is the only Marine who served in the Global War on Terrorism to receive the Medal of Honor.

“When you see a lonely sea bag, you know what’s going on,” said Sgt. Jared Grote with Technical Rescue Platoon, Headquarters and Service Company, Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, II Marine Expeditionary Force.

His sacrifice is especially remembered by three Marines who served with him in Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, and are now stationed at Naval Support Facility, Indian Head, Md., with CBIRF.

“He did the most selfless thing you could do for a Marine,” said Sgt. Derek Mensen with CBIRF’s Decontamination Platoon. “Some people say it was his destiny, being born on the Marine Corps’ birthday.”

Dunham held his Marines to a high standard- a standard he followed himself.

“He was tough on his Marines, but at the same time, he took care of them, because they belonged to him,” said Sgt. Joshua Hoefler with Decontamination Platoon, CBIRF. “He didn’t throw the (private first class) on the grenade, he jumped on the grenade for the private first class. That was just the kind of leader he was.”

Hoefler says, when he discovered Dunham had passed away, it was a shock.

“He was one of those Marines who had that air about him that nothing was going to touch him. He walked with that kind of confidence,” Hoefler said.

Sgt. Jared Grote, a Marine with Technical Rescue Platoon, Headquarters and Service Company, said, even though Dunham and his Marines were not related by blood, they fought for the United States like brothers.

“Misery loves company. If you sweat and bleed so much for someone, you grow closer together as a family,” Grote said.

Dunham made the ultimate sacrifice for his country, and he left behind a family that will always remember.

“Of course they’re going to be sad, but I don’t think they could have been prouder. They have a family with Kilo Company,” Hoefler said.

Dunham is but one of many Marines who was missed here at Fleet Week and remembered for his honorable service with the United States Marines Corps.