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July 30, 2007

Operation Mawtini sweeping Kubaysah

By Franklin Fisher, Stars and Stripes
Monday, July 30, 2007

COMBAT OUTPOST RAWAH, Iraq — U.S. and Iraqi forces’ efforts to disrupt the insurgency in western Anbar province include clearing a town believed to be a terrorist staging area and hunting for oil pirates, officials said Saturday

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July 29, 2007

BAT system helps 3/1 catch bad guys

NEAR KARMAH, Iraq (July 28, 2007) -- Like technology from the latest James Bond movie, a system using finger prints and retina scans help Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, Kilo Company, tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys.


July 28, 2007; Submitted on: 07/28/2007 03:01:57 AM ; Story ID#: 20077283157
By Staff Sgt. Matthew O. Holly, 13th MEU

The Biometrics Automated Toolset System, otherwise known as BATS, is a database which assists in finding insurgents and other wanted individuals. The system takes finger prints or scans the retina of an eye and stores it with information like names, pictures and background information to form an individual profile. The profile provides information about an individual’s past records, if the person has been previously detained, where they’ve worked or whether or not they are wanted for illegal activity.

Kilo Co. is the first of Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines to utilize the system and in the first day they were able to identify and detain three individuals for criminal activity.

“The first guy who ended up getting his finger prints taken was the nicest guy,” said 1st Lt. David A. Keltner, 3rd platoon commander for Kilo Co. and Tucson, Ariz. native. “He would come up to me every day and say, “Hi Mr. Daoud,” which is how the locals refer to Keltner. “Then it turns out he was a bad guy with a ‘capture’ or ‘kill’ status.”

The process can take anywhere from 12 to 90 minutes. A Marine working a vehicle check point or conducting “knock and talk” operations collects biometric data from individuals, searches the database and looks for a match with on-file records.

The system is user-driven, however. The amount of information found in the database is dependent on how much data previous operators or administrators have entered into the system.

“It’s a good system,” said Sgt. Jared J. Hamilton, 3rd squad leader from Eldridge, Iowa. “It allows us to identify individuals who need to be detained for actions against coalition forces.”

This system will surely be a time and life saver and will simplify the process of finding out who the bad guys really are.

Task force takes the fight to the Anbar desert

By Franklin Fisher, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Wednesday, July 25, 2007


A weeklong raid into a remote desert area of western Anbar province was a strike into a region the insurgency had until now seen as its own, the Marine officer who led the operation said Monday.

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July 26, 2007

Mom Gets Helping Hand After Losing Son To War; Pat Quinn, Teamsters Help Mother To Fix Up Her House

DWIGHT, Ill. -- Lt. Governor Pat Quinn and the Chicago teamsters are combining forces to help a woman who lost her son last March to the war.


News video that accompanies the article:

POSTED: 6:55 pm CDT July 26, 2007
UPDATED: 7:06 pm CDT July 26, 2007

Lori Fraher is a Gold Star mom -- an organization of mothers whose children have been killed in the line of duty -- and will soon be getting a helping hand from some union builders who want to aid in getting her life and home back together

She is the pride and joy of Dwight, and is best known for helping strangers but never asking for help herself.

Fraher and her best friends make up the "SOS Sweatshop" -- every day they get together to make quilts by hand for servicemen and -women in Iraq and Afghanstan at no cost to the soldier.

Now, Fraher will be getting some of that good karma back.

Later at a memorial service, Lt. Governor Pat Quinn asked Fraher if she needed anything, and she replied that she needed a new roof. That's when she met Mike Yauger with Teamsters -- he's the president of Local 786.

He showed NBC5 the building inspector's report from Fraher's home, detailing dangerous mold and mildew, gaping holes in the porch awning, and four raccoons still living in the attic of her home.

The bottom line is that Fraher will get about $150,000 of rehab work free.

Local boy reunited with father after dramatic rescue

NEAR KARMAH, Iraq (July 26, 2007) – Tears flowed openly this morning when a local father was reunited with his son following a dramatic rescue by Marines from Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines. During a tribal dispute July 16, the boy, Hamum, 4, suffered a 7.62mm gunshot wound to the stomach.


Story and Photos By Sgt. Andy Hurt/13th MEU

Marines from Weapons Company happened to be in the area conducting a counter-insurgency “knock-and-talk” patrol when a suspicious vehicle was spotted traveling at a high rate of speed toward their position. The vehicle was flagged down and a woman emerged, bleeding from her leg, carrying Hamum.

Sergeant Daniel Hansen, the on-scene commander, said the sight was disturbing.

“This woman was carrying this kid who was holding his own guts in,” Hansen recalled. “The thing that shocked me most was that he wasn’t crying or anything. He just looked at me like ‘who the (expletive) are you?’”

Company Corpsmen HM3 Christopher Begger and HN Lyle Chandler assessed the injuries and requested an immediate medical evacuation for the boy. Air was not an option, and the close proximity to Combat Outpost Golden allowed the Marines to take Hamum by vehicle to the base. The woman was treated on scene.

“The Doc said he was stable, but he started getting worse, throwing up and having respiratory problems,” Hansen said.

After a follow-on assessment at Golden, the boy was evacuated by air to the Camp Al Asad Surgical Center and treated for his injury. All the while, Battalion staff at Combat Outpost Golden kept in close contact with Hamum’s parents, assuring them every step of the way.

“His parents were coming to the gate every other day,” said 1st Lt. Charles “Chuck” Morris, a BLT 3/1 infantry officer. “They would drive up to (Entry Control Point) One and we’d come out with an interpreter. They kept asking ‘How’s my son? Where is my son? Is my son alive?’ And we gave them all the information we could.”

Finally, on July 25, the boy had stabilized enough to return home. He was brought to COP Golden and stayed the night under the watchful eyes of BLT medical staff. At approximately 6:30 a.m. today, Hamum and his parents were reunited.

“It was very heartwarming,” said Morris, who supervised the sunrise event. “Everyone was crying.”

For the heroes of Battalion Landing Team 3/1, it was just another action in the line of duty. Hamum’s father said it was a life changing ordeal.

“Right now I have the feeling of any father who has seen his son in danger and survive. It was very serious,” he said. “Thank you, thank you for saving his life.”

Hamum’s father said he plans to celebrate the occasion by slaughtering a sheep and having a barbecue, giving praise to God.

“Thank God my son is safe.”

July 25, 2007

Marines take to skies to hunt insurgents

Ramadi, Iraq (July 25, 2007) -- The scout-sniper platoon from 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, left the ground behind as they took to the skies to hunt for weapon caches and insurgents. As part of the aeroscout mission, the Marines travel by helicopter to areas not normally checked because of their remote locations.


July 25, 2007; Submitted on: 07/25/2007 03:35:14 AM ; Story ID#: 200772533514
By Lance Cpl. Joseph D. Day, 2nd Marine Division (FWD)

“The average size group for this type of mission is usually two platoons. We’re doing it with about half,” said 1st Lt. Jordan D. Reese, the executive officer for Weapons Company, 3/7. “We train constantly, so that we are comfortable with each other. The Marines know what type of air power they have behind them. We believe there is no objective we can’t handle.”

Marines from the scout-sniper platoon conducted aeroscout operations south of Ramadi, in the desolate lands of the Razazah plains July 22.

The Marines loaded onto the helicopters at 9 a.m. They carried with them a full combat load, and packs of food, blankets and water to pass out to the people they encounter on the mission.

“The food drops are our way to show that we are on their side,” the Rockford Ill. native said. “In the city this might not be a big deal, but this food could mean life or death to these people. There is nothing out there in the far desert. Maybe it will keep them happy enough to have them stay working with us, and not the terrorists.”

During the flight, Reese observed different sites looking for anything suspicious. After flying around for about 15 minutes, he spotted a tent with vehicles around it and people walking around. He decided to insert the team to take a closer look.

The two CH-53 Sea Stallions landed and the two scout-sniper teams moved fast out the door of the helicopter and began to provide security for the landing zone.

“With a unit this small conducting the operation, it is real easy to maneuver,” Reese said. “We can get in, hit the objective, and get out in about 20 minutes.”

Once the helicopters lifted the scouts went to work, moving fast, but cautiously toward the tent. Between the two teams, one team held security while the other team searched the people and the structure.

After a quick, but thorough search the Marines decided there weren’t any suspicious items or information, so they called in the helicopters for extraction.

“These missions give us a presence in an area which hasn’t had any coalition forces in it for years or even ever,” Reese said. “This will keep the bad guys on their toes and that is really what we’re going for. Keep them guessing so we can catch up to them and get them.”
Though the Marines had finished with the objective, they were not done. While observing a different area, Reese noticed some additional suspicious activities. They went back to work.

“The Marines showed the ethos of being a professional warrior today,” said Capt. Miguel A. Pena, a forward air controller for the battalion. “They showed the people we’re here to provide help to them.”

As the Marines sprinted toward their second objective, men came out with their hands up as the Marines approached their vehicles.

“We are able to reach far into the desert winds and help some people who we had no contact with before,” Pena said. “We are conducting these missions in a nonstandard way. Before they were ground driven, now we bring the air element to the fight.”

The Marines questioned the men through the interpreter. They asked them about, where they were from, why they were there, and if anything suspicious happened recently. The Marines gave the group of men the one of their packs of food for co-operating with them.

The Marines then set up landing zone security again, while Pena called for the birds to come pick them up.

“These missions provide us with the opportunity to hit the enemy before they hit us,” Reese said. “We will continue to do it because of all the positive effects it has on the people and on our mission here in Ramadi.”

1/11 Marines reach out to local Iraqis, defend TQ

AL TAQADDUM, Iraq (July 25, 2007) – On an average summer day in July and August, the roiling sun spews out temperatures of more than 110 degrees Fahrenheit onto Al Anbar province. Despite the heat, U.S. servicemembers around the province continue to patrol, looking out for suspicious activity.


Cpl. Thomas J. Griffith

The Marines of 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment defend the region here by frequently patrolling nearby roadways and towns, conducting route security missions and manning the guard posts and entry points.

One of the towns patrolled by the artillery battalion from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., is Al Madinah as Siyahiyah, known to the Marines as “Tourist Town.” Corporal David B. Santy, an infantryman turned intelligence data specialist with Battery C, 1st Bn., 11th Marines, said he and the other Marines tour this area regularly.

“We do that to make sure we’re keeping our presence there – to keep the insurgents out of there and keep it peaceful,” said the Plattsburgh, N.Y., native.

The Marines patrolled on July 25 to conduct a census of the people living in “Tourist Town.” Santy said they also took pictures of Iraqi police hopefuls and recorded the serial numbers from their AK-47 assault rifles.

“Right now nobody there is officially an Iraqi police member,” he said. “They are just guards right now and are not getting paid for what they’re doing…Their only reason to be doing this is their hopes and dreams that one day they will be Iraqi police.”

Often times, the Marines will bring candy or soccer balls to give to the children, medical supplies for the clinics and funds for projects such as the rebuilding of a water treatment facility. It is also not uncommon for one of the families to invite them in for a meal and chai tea.

The commanding officer of the battalion, Lt. Col. Phillip W. Boggs, said his greatest assets are his Marines and that they are well prepared for the task at hand.

“1/11 has about 60 to 70 percent Iraq veterans, so many understand the situation from prior experience, although they also understand the battlefield is dynamic,” said the Greenville, S.C., native. “The maturity of our (noncommissioned officers) is phenomenal.”

Sergeant Mike R. Gonzalez, a patrol leader and Modesto, Calif., native with the battalion, said seeing the way the local Iraqis live adds to the importance of patrolling the area of operations. Many of the houses in the area do not have clean, running water.

“Their living conditions are just really bad,” he said. “We’re giving them things to improve that. I feel that they’re taking us very seriously and know that we mean business. We definitely have a positive impact on them.”

Gonzlaez explained business is not all that is important though. He said it’s important to get to know the people.

“It’s one thing to always talk about business with the people, but they think that’s what you’re all about. I’ll ask them about how their families are and I’ll tell them about mine,” Gonzalez said. “You need to build a better relationship with the people too.”

While patrolling through Quadiciyah July 25, Gonzalez asked an Iraqi man if he had ever seen California on television. The Iraqi man said he had heard great things.

“It’s a culture shock I guess,” Gonzalez added. “I’m only 22 (years old) and we’re halfway around the world talking to people trying to make a difference in their lives.”

Another intelligence data specialist with the battalion, Lance Cpl. David L. Fry, said the most enjoyable aspect of his job is the interaction with the locals.

“It’s interesting to learn a new culture, see what it’s like,” said the Mountain Grove, Mo., native.

Fry, who at times also drives vehicles or mans the crew-served weapons on the patrols, said he takes solace in knowing that he’s helping not only the folks back home, but the local Iraqis as well.

According to Santy, the Marines with 1st Battalion, 11th Marines have a strong understanding of the mission. With the political storm over U.S. presence in Iraq brooding in the states, Santy said he believes it’s even more important to help the Iraqi government stand up against terrorism.

“It’s important for us to be here and not give up,” he explained. “We should stick it out until (Iraq) is well into a political hold and has a good, strong government that can make decisions on its own.”

July 24, 2007

Marines patrol to see and be seen

By Franklin Fisher, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Tuesday, July 24, 2007

RAWAH, Iraq — Before their patrol set off Friday night, Marine Maj. Hezekiah Barge Jr. said his role would be less about the “science” of fighting a war and more about the “art” of reading people.

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July 22, 2007

3/11’s departure from Combat Center brings tears to family, friends

Tears streaked the faces of family and friends who gathered at the Combat Center, June 29, to watch more than 100 Marines and sailors with 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, Kilo Battery, load their gear onto a truck and climb into buses for their seven-month deployment to Al Anbar province, Iraq.


Sunday July 22, 2007
Pfc. Monica Erickson
Combat Correspondent

Kilo Battery will be working outside their military occupational specialties, with their main mission focusing on provisional security operations for 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment. They will be setting up vehicle check points, convoy security, forward operation base security and tower watch during their deployment.

“We are going to be shadowing an Army National Guard unit to observe how they are running everything,” said Lance Cpl. Matthew E. Greene, a motor transportation operator. “We will add what we think is necessary for our battery, and then relieve the soldiers so they have a chance to go home to their loved ones.”

The Marines and sailors of Kilo Battery will be working side-by-side with Iraqi military personnel and Iraqi citizens throughout their deployment.

“It is important to show the Iraqi citizens that Americans are helpful and friendly people. Hopefully that will spread through Iraq, and show the Iraqi people that they don’t want terrorists in their country,” said Greene.

Kilo Battery went through many months of rigorous training. They trained with Iraqi role players, working on communication and cultural relations skills. Through field training, they sharpened their skills in convoy and patrolling operations, and security check point procedures.

“These Marines are trained to the best of their ability,” said Staff Sgt. Justin Booker, 1st platoon sergeant. “They have been training for a long time. They know what they are doing.”

Many of the Marines from Kilo Battery have deployed multiple times, each time returning with new experiences.

“This deployment is going to go well. We have great leaders who know what is going on, and what needs to be done,” said Booker. “We also have great Marines under us, who trust us, and do their job to the best of their ability.”

3/11’s departure from Combat Center brings tears to family, friends

Pfc Monica Erickson A Marine with 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, Kilo Battery, hugs an official hugger before loading the bus to deploy to Al Anbar province, Iraq, June 29.
Pfc. Monica Erickson

Combat Correspondent

Tears streaked the faces of family and friends who gathered at the Combat Center, June 29, to watch more than 100 Marines and sailors with 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, Kilo Battery, load their gear onto a truck and climb into buses for their seven-month deployment to Al Anbar province, Iraq.

Kilo Battery will be working outside their military occupational specialties, with their main mission focusing on provisional security operations for 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment. They will be setting up vehicle check points, convoy security, forward operation base security and tower watch during their deployment.

“We are going to be shadowing an Army National Guard unit to observe how they are running everything,” said Lance Cpl. Matthew E. Greene, a motor transportation operator. “We will add what we think is necessary for our battery, and then relieve the soldiers so they have a chance to go home to their loved ones.”

The Marines and sailors of Kilo Battery will be working side-by-side with Iraqi military personnel and Iraqi citizens throughout their deployment.

“It is important to show the Iraqi citizens that Americans are helpful and friendly people. Hopefully that will spread through Iraq, and show the Iraqi people that they don’t want terrorists in their country,” said Greene.

Kilo Battery went through many months of rigorous training. They trained with Iraqi role players, working on communication and cultural relations skills. Through field training, they sharpened their skills in convoy and patrolling operations, and security check point procedures.

“These Marines are trained to the best of their ability,” said Staff Sgt. Justin Booker, 1st platoon sergeant. “They have been training for a long time. They know what they are doing.”

Many of the Marines from Kilo Battery have deployed multiple times, each time returning with new experiences.

“This deployment is going to go well. We have great leaders who know what is going on, and what needs to be done,” said Booker. “We also have great Marines under us, who trust us, and do their job to the best of their ability.”

3/11’s departure from Combat Center brings tears to family, friends

Pfc Monica Erickson A Marine with 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, Kilo Battery, hugs an official hugger before loading the bus to deploy to Al Anbar province, Iraq, June 29.
Pfc. Monica Erickson

Combat Correspondent

Tears streaked the faces of family and friends who gathered at the Combat Center, June 29, to watch more than 100 Marines and sailors with 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, Kilo Battery, load their gear onto a truck and climb into buses for their seven-month deployment to Al Anbar province, Iraq.

Kilo Battery will be working outside their military occupational specialties, with their main mission focusing on provisional security operations for 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment. They will be setting up vehicle check points, convoy security, forward operation base security and tower watch during their deployment.

“We are going to be shadowing an Army National Guard unit to observe how they are running everything,” said Lance Cpl. Matthew E. Greene, a motor transportation operator. “We will add what we think is necessary for our battery, and then relieve the soldiers so they have a chance to go home to their loved ones.”

The Marines and sailors of Kilo Battery will be working side-by-side with Iraqi military personnel and Iraqi citizens throughout their deployment.

“It is important to show the Iraqi citizens that Americans are helpful and friendly people. Hopefully that will spread through Iraq, and show the Iraqi people that they don’t want terrorists in their country,” said Greene.

Kilo Battery went through many months of rigorous training. They trained with Iraqi role players, working on communication and cultural relations skills. Through field training, they sharpened their skills in convoy and patrolling operations, and security check point procedures.

“These Marines are trained to the best of their ability,” said Staff Sgt. Justin Booker, 1st platoon sergeant. “They have been training for a long time. They know what they are doing.”

Many of the Marines from Kilo Battery have deployed multiple times, each time returning with new experiences.

“This deployment is going to go well. We have great leaders who know what is going on, and what needs to be done,” said Booker. “We also have great Marines under us, who trust us, and do their job to the best of their ability.”

Group sends care packages to military personnel

Whenever Stockton resident Chris Fisher sees a man or woman on the street in military uniform, she hands them a card.


By Sara Cardine
Record Staff Writer
July 22, 2007 6:00 AM

"Dear American Hero," it reads. "I am not certain as to how to express my gratitude for all you have done to secure my freedom. Please accept this simple card as a small token of my appreciation."

As the mother of 20-year-old twin sons serving in the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, Fisher understands the importance of supporting American servicemen and women.

So when she found out about Thanks to Our Troops, a local group whose goal is to send as many as 1,000 care packages to servicemen and women by Sept. 11, Fisher jumped on board.

She bought several specially requested items, such as beef jerky, powdered drink mixes and energy bars, and dropped them off at the Starbucks Coffee on Pacific Avenue, one collection site. Then when she learned Thanks to Our Troops meets every Saturday just blocks away at Mister Space Self Storage on Pacific Avenue, Fisher asked friends and co-workers to join her efforts.

She was there bright and early Saturday morning with boxes of donations.

"I don't care where it goes," Fisher said. "I just want it to go and let people know we support them."

The Stockton mom is one of several people who have donated time, money and goods to the project, says Camila Griggs, a local house painter who founded the group. At the most recent packing, about 16 people showed up at Mister Space, despite temperatures in the mid-90s, to pack books, toiletries and snacks into boxes for shipping. Stockton resident and World War II Navy veteran Ort Lofthus helped organize their work.

Letting servicemen and women know you care goes a long way, especially in times of war, said Lofthus, whose 20-year-old grandson, Curtis Lofthus, is on his second tour of duty overseas with the Marine Corps.

"I really know what it means even to get a letter," said Lofthus, watching swift hands pack cotton swabs, socks and toothbrushes into boxes.

Griggs, whose brother, Army Maj. Robert Griggs, has served in Iraq with the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division since August, said she's gotten overwhelming support from people throughout the community, including consultation from Becky Mizener, who began a similar effort called Packed With Pride after her son, Army Pfc. Jesse Mizener, was killed in the Iraq conflict in 2004 at age 23.

Thanks to Our Troops is accepting donations of time, money and goods through Aug. 18 at all Stockton Starbucks locations and each Saturday at Mister Space Self Storage, 4223 Pacific Ave. in Stockton, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. All donations go to enlisted U.S. servicemen and women.


JAMES A. MAZZA JR., 22, of LONG BRANCH, died Sunday, July 22, in Richmond, Va., as a result of a motor-vehicle accident. He was a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps. He entered the Marine Corps in June 2004 and served two deployments in the Middle East in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He was awarded the Purple Heart and many other recognitions from the U.S. Navy and the United States Government. Prior to his military service, he enjoyed many summers as a lifeguard at Seven Presidents Park Beach. He was a communicant of St. Michael's Roman Catholic Church, Long Branch. He was a 2003 graduate of Long Branch High School. He was a member of the Freedom Worship Center, Jacksonville, N.C., where he served as a deacon. He was born in Long Branch and lived there most of his life.


Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 07/24/07

He was predeceased by his paternal grandmother, Gladys B. Mazza. Surviving are his parents, Jim and Vicky Williams Mazza; two sisters, Megan G. Mazza and Jamie Mazza, both of Long Branch and Jamie's fiance, Randy Hicks of Keyport; his paternal grandfather, James G. Mazza, M.D., and his wife Lorraine Mazza of Boynton Beach, Fla.; his maternal grandparents, Edward and Elizabeth Williams of Fort Myers, Fla.; and his fiancee, Rebecca Ann Howell of Wilmington, N.C.

Visitation will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday at Woolley Funeral Home, 10 Morrell St. at Broadway, Long Branch. The Funeral Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturday from St. Michael's Roman Catholic Church, Long Branch. The interment will follow in Woodbine Cemetery, Oceanport. Those wishing to remember him may make contributions in lieu of flowers to Freedom Worship Center, P.O. Box 486, Jacksonville, NC 28541.

July 20, 2007

RAV helps Marines make decision to stay with Corps

AL TAQADDUM, Iraq (July 20, 2007) -- Since arriving here in January, more than 300 Marines with 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) have reenlisted. A retention assist visit conducted by monitors of a number of military occupational specialties at the Headquarters Company office here July 20 helped that number grow by 85 and counting.


July 20, 2007; Submitted on: 07/29/2007 03:28:03 PM ; Story ID#: 200772915283
By Cpl. Thomas J. Griffith, 2nd Marine Logistics Group

The intent of the visit was to try and reenlist as many Marines from fiscal years 2007 and 2008 as possible to meet the Marine Corps’ end-state strength goal of 202,000 Marines by the close of fiscal year 2011. The Corps hopes that by swelling its ranks by 23,000 additional troops, they will be able to ease the strain of deployment cycles and increase operational readiness around the globe.

“It will allow a 2-to-1 dwell to deployment time,” said Master Sgt. Terry Cole, career retention specialist for 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward).

Cole, a Salt Lake City native, explained that many Marines reenlist while deployed because of the tax-free bonus, adding that more than $7 million has been awarded for reenlistment bonuses so far.

With an arsenal of selective reenlistment bonuses, duty stations and the possibility of lateral moves, the monitors began their tour of Al Anbar province in Camp Fallujah on July 7.

“We’re not trying to buy your service, we’re thanking you for your service,” said Sgt. Maj. Gary W. Weiser, sergeant major of Manpower Management Enlisted Affairs. “I can’t think of a better way to use tax dollars than to give it to you all.”

The RAV led to mass reenlistment ceremonies, such as one held by 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, in which 40 Marines reenlisted July 24.

“We need experienced leaders to shape and mold our new Marines,” said Weiser, a Noxon, Mont., native. “We’re here to make you an offer you can’t refuse.”

Lieutenant Col. Phillip W. Boggs, commanding officer of 1st Bn., 11th Marines, said although deployments can be difficult at times, his Marines “understand the importance of the mission and, as evidenced by the mass reenlistment…are still dedicated to seeing the mission through.”

The monitors completed their trip July 22 and stopped to speak with Marines in Kuwait before returning to the states.

Company A recruit graduates as company honorman after nine-month tour on depot

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO(July 20, 2007) -- After nine months on the depot, one Company A Marine proved nothing could hold him back as he graduates today as a lance corporal and the company honorman.


Submitted by: MCRD San Diego
Story by: Computed Name: Pfc. Carrie Booze
Story Identification #: 2007719164821

With a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Full Sail Real World Education in Orlando, Fla., Lance Cpl. Jonathan R. Zimmer initially never considered the military as an option. As Zimmer pursued his education, he steadily developed an interest in the Marine Corps infantry. As time went on, his desire to protect his family and his freedom increasingly grew, but a problem with his appendix hindered his decision on enlisting.

When his appendix ruptured in July 2006, Zimmer was taken to a local hospital in his hometown of Cedar Grove, Wis. While driving home with his mother after being released, Zimmer spontaneously told her he wanted to join the Marine Corps.

Weeks later Zimmer enlisted into the Delayed Entry Program and left for boot camp that following October where he picked up with Company L, Platoon 3247.

After the Initial Strength Test—evaluation during first week of training on 1.5 mile run, crunches and pull-ups—Zimmer began to develop a severe stress fracture in his right tibia. He was taken out of training and sent to the Medical Rehabilitation Platoon.

He spent the next six months in rehabilitation until he eventually picked up with Company A, Platoon 1013 at the end of April 2007.

“When I found out, I was extremely concerned because they initially wanted to drop him from training all together,” said Nancy E. Zimmer, his mother. “I was ecstatic when he was put back in training, and happy he still had the positive attitude to stick through it.”

Zimmer admitted being a little down when he first arrived at the MRP barracks, but after refocusing on his goals, he reminded himself why he was there and took action toward recovery.

“It was depressing seeing other Marines that arrived on the depot after me graduate before I did,” said Zimmer. “But MRP is as easy as you want it to be; I just kept a positive mind set and got through one day at a time.”

Zimmer continued with training mentally stronger than ever. His natural-leader instincts were recognized by his drill instructors, which earned him the billet of squad leader upon the arrival at his new platoon.

“Zimmer proved himself to be an outstanding role model to the other recruits,” said Gunnery Sgt. Johnny P. Robinson, a drill instructor from Platoon 1013, Company A. “He earned his platoon’s respect, and made them want to follow him by consistently leading by example.”

During the second phase of training, his platoon was bused up north to Edson Range, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., for field training. There, Zimmer was given the billet of platoon guide and from then on he led his platoon for the duration of training.

“He was demanding of the other recruits but also fair,” said Robinson. “He exemplifies good leadership and I am confident he will do well in the Fleet Marine Force.”

After 10 days of boot leave, Zimmer will be furthering his training by attending the School of Infantry, Camp Pendleton, for two months where he will train to become an infantryman.

“It is a great relief to finally get through recruit training,” said Zimmer. “I cannot wait to begin my military career.”

RAV helps 2nd MLG (Fwd) Marines make decision to stay with Corps

AL TAQADDUM, Iraq (July 20, 2007) -- Since arriving here in January, more than 300 Marines with 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) have reenlisted. A retention assist visit conducted by monitors of a number of military occupational specialties at the Headquarters Company office here July 20 helped that number grow by 85 and counting.


Cpl. Thomas J. Griffith

The intent of the visit was to try and reenlist as many Marines from fiscal years 2007 and 2008 as possible to meet the Marine Corps’ end-state strength goal of 202,000 Marines by the close of fiscal year 2011. The Corps hopes that by swelling its ranks by 23,000 additional troops, they will be able to ease the strain of deployment cycles and increase operational readiness around the globe.

“It will allow a 2-to-1 dwell to deployment time,” said Master Sgt. Terry Cole, career retention specialist for 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward).

Cole, a Salt Lake City native, explained that many Marines reenlist while deployed because of the tax-free bonus, adding that more than $7 million has been awarded for reenlistment bonuses so far.

With an arsenal of selective reenlistment bonuses, duty stations and the possibility of lateral moves, the monitors began their tour of Al Anbar province in Camp Fallujah on July 7.

“We’re not trying to buy your service, we’re thanking you for your service,” said Sgt. Maj. Gary W. Weiser, sergeant major of Manpower Management Enlisted Affairs. “I can’t think of a better way to use tax dollars than to give it to you all.”

The RAV led to mass reenlistment ceremonies, such as one held by 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, in which 40 Marines reenlisted July 24.

“We need experienced leaders to shape and mold our new Marines,” said Weiser, a Noxon, Mont., native. “We’re here to make you an offer you can’t refuse.”

Lieutenant Col. Phillip W. Boggs, commanding officer of 1st Bn., 11th Marines, said although deployments can be difficult at times, his Marines “understand the importance of the mission and, as evidenced by the mass reenlistment…are still dedicated to seeing the mission through.”

The monitors completed their trip July 22 and stopped to speak with Marines in Kuwait before returning to the states.

July 18, 2007

On the Scene: Last foot patrol of Pace's career

RAMADI, IRAQ (CNN) -- The walk in Ramadi was never supposed to happen. A sandstorm grounded Gen. Peter Pace and his entourage, who were planning on leaving the city after a quick visit during his final tour of Iraq.

Please click on the above link for a video link in the original article just below the title.

July 18, 2007
By Barbara Starr
CNN Pentagon Correspondent

With nothing to do, Pace suggested the group go for a walk.

Now the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff does not just "go for a walk" in the middle of a war zone. Ramadi had been devastated by months of intense fighting, with hundreds of U.S. troops giving their lives trying to rid the city of insurgents. But the last time an improvised explosive device detonated in the center of the city was in February.

Troops I talked to in the city believe they are making a difference.

Before the storm, the city's mayor said he is trying to rebuild the city. He told Pace that even though many say they do not want the Americans occupying the city, he is concerned that insurgents will return if the security umbrella of the American troops were ever to leave.

For now, Ramadi was moderately safe -- and Pace wanted to go for a walk, then a walk would be happening.

After a sharp intake of breath from his security patrol, the team got working on a security plan. Within the hour everyone was out the door, strolling through the streets.

When Sen. John McCain visited Baghdad, he came under heavy criticism for saying he strolled through the market just like one would in the United States. He never mentioned the security team surrounding him or the helicopters overhead.

Pace had security, too -- heavily armed U.S. troops and Iraqi soldiers, though not as heavy as what McCain had in the capital city.

With the sandstorm blowing, the streets were quiet. People were polite. Little kids were waving. Pace shook hands and posed for pictures with some children, and talked to a few of the vendors on the streets.

The general stopped to ask a watch seller how business was and how security was going. Not too bad, the vendor said.

But when CNN photojournalist Khalil Abdallah, who speaks Arabic, asked another man how things were going, the answer was not as friendly. He said he wanted the "occupiers" gone.

Walking with the general, I noticed the devastation from the intense fighting. Every building was bombed, shelled or destroyed.

But the experience was incredible.

Over the years, hundreds of U.S. troops have fought and died on these streets. To now be walking and talking to kids and buying fruit was an extraordinary experience.

For Pace, who is stepping down, the patrol through the streets could very well be his last. Four decades ago he went on patrol in Vietnam. Today, as his entourage walked through the city center in Ramadi, they came across some Marines who happened to be from the very same unit as the one Pace was part of some 40 years earlier.

New vehicles support Marine mission in Anbar

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (July 18, 2007) -- Marines with Regimental Combat Team 6 recently got their hands on the Marine Corps’ newest counter to attacks by terrorist forces in Anbar Province.


July 18, 2007; Submitted on: 07/18/2007 11:34:54 AM ; Story ID#: 2007718113454
By Sgt. Stephen M. DeBoard, Regimental Combat Team 6

The Joint Explosive Ordnance Disposal Rapid Response Vehicle, or JERRV, is the latest melding of technology and combat firepower to find its way onto the battlefield in Iraq. Like any new weapon fielded to Marines, instructors are needed to certify potential operators in its use.

One of the JERRV operator instructors for the regiment is Cpl. Miarco T. McMillian, a motor transportation operator with Headquarters Company. He is one of a handful of instructors responsible for training the Marines who will be driving the trucks on combat and logistics patrols throughout Al Anbar Province.

The JERRV is one type of vehicle in the category of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs. It’s the usual alphabet soup of military acronyms that all boils down to one thing: protecting Marines in combat. Unlike the humvee, the current workhorse of the American vehicle fleet, the JERRV chassis was designed with heavy bomb-proof armor in mind.

“There’s a higher sense of security with brand new vehicles. They’re designed to carry the weight of the armor,” said McMillian, a Las Vegas native and 1998 graduate of Meadows High School. “(The JERRVs) are 40,000 lbs. but they can go up to 52,000 lbs. with extra modifications. Being surrounded by all that armor makes you feel safe.”

Gunnery Sgt. Matthew A. Larson, the motor transportation maintenance chief for RCT-6, echoed McMillian’s sentiment.

“They're like no other vehicle I have ever driven,” Larson said. “They are like riding in a bank-vault with wheels. You can't help but feel safer in the JERRV than in an armored humvee. These vehicles will definitely save lives.”

Larson said the process of training Marines on the JERRV will be a “continuous process.”

“The intent is for RCT-6 instructors to train instructors in all of the subordinate units, while simultaneously teaching all potential operators in the RCT headquarters,” said Larson, a Hubert, N.C., native. “When all is said and done, we should have in the ball park of 700 or so Marines trained to operate the MRAPs.”

RCT-6 will need every one of those operators to man the fleet of vehicles it is slated to receive. Around 500 MRAPs, including the JERRV and other variants, will make an immediate impact on the mission in Anbar Province, according to Capt. Russell W. Wilson, the motor transportation officer for RCT-6.

“The MRAP will go a long way in the IED force protection of our Marines, sailors and soldiers; however, this added protection comes with a price. The price is reduced visibility, maneuverability, off road capability … and (experienced operators),” he said. “That is where training becomes critical to the success of the vehicle and the adaptation to accomplish the mission.”

McMillian said his first experience with the JERRV was something any civilian can identify with.

“It smells like a brand new car. It’s got that nice, plastic, clean car smell,” said McMillian. “There’s nothing else like it in the world.”

More important than the smell, McMillian said, is how the 20-ton, six-wheeled vehicle handles.

“Surprisingly, it handles very well. It’s a lot more nimble than you would expect from a 20-ton vehicle. Its turning radius is amazing, and its versatility and terrain capability is way up there,” he said.

A versatile vehicle requires a versatile operator. This is the value in having Marines like McMillian in the instructor seat, said Wilson.

“The Marine Corps is one of the only places in the world where a corporal, with relatively minimal training, teaching, and public speaking experience, can get out there and teach all ranks and grades with confidence and professionalism,” he said. “With the training of Cpl. McMillian and the cadre of instructors like him, we aim to safely and rapidly field the MRAP for convoy security and give Marines a better fighting chance against the tactics of the enemy.”

July 17, 2007

Navy ‘Riverines’ are irreplaceable asset to 13th MEU

NEAR KARMAH, Iraq (July 17, 2007) -- The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit may have disembarked its ships to deploy to Iraq, but the Navy is still playing a vital role in the unit’s success.


July 17, 2007; Submitted on: 07/17/2007 11:37:44 AM ; Story ID#: 2007717113744
By Sgt. Andy Hurt, 13th MEU

Navy Riverine Squadron One, a compact, water-borne unit from Naval Expeditionary Combat Command, has been the “tip of the trident” supporting counterinsurgency operations in Al Anbar province since May 5, and is now assisting the 13th MEU.

Conducting operations based off of MEU intelligence products, the RIVRON is constantly patrolling the murky waters and canals of Lake Thar Thar in search of insurgent activities and opening lines of communications within the community. The RIVRON also takes the responsibilities of a boat raid company, which the MEU realigned to accommodate a forecasted mission in the desert. Seeing the Riverines in action gives the feel of a Hollywood special operations flick – complete with mud, rifles, jet boats and a rough-and-tumble cast.

Understanding the Riverines is simple. Take a sailor from a weapons specialty, put him through Marine Corps School of Infantry, machine gunners course, a few civilian security courses and a boat school. Fly him to a war zone and place him directly into the fight. You now have a Riverine.

“These guys are Sailors who have been converted,” said Lt. Michael Taylor, RIVRON-1, Maritime Interdiction Team commander. “They’re Riverines now, and they’re proud of that.

As the MIT commander, Taylor is responsible for much of the “ground aspect” of the Riverine doctrine. Though he denies suggestions RIVRON-1 is a ground force, Taylor said Riverines are a very important piece in the War on Terrorism.

“Since the beginning of time, waterways have been an excellent way to transport items,” said the Syracuse, N.Y. native, “but we’re here to deny that use to Anti-Iraqi forces and open the waterways for legitimate business.”

The Riverines are doing just that. In the last week alone they have successfully located and detained three individuals suspected of Improvised Explosive Device operations.

“We’re motivated to be here, and every time we find a weapons cache or an IED, it’s exciting,” said Taylor. “The three guys we (detained) were suspects in an incident which killed six Marines, and when we caught them our motivation just skyrocketed.”

The motivation and success do not come without hard work. For each mission, Riverines are responsible for tactical planning, intelligence analysis and transportation – which includes the upkeep of four Small Unit Riverine Craft boats, powered by twin jet inboard motors. Like Marine rifle companies, the responsibility weighs heavily in the hands of small-unit leaders.

Petty Officer 1st Class Rudy Lopez, team leading Petty Officer, said although there are many moving parts to each mission, the Riverines feel the importance of their role each day.

“In a way, we’re allowing the Marines to focus on their mission elsewhere,” he said, “and we put the Navy back into the fight … we’re doing a job that hasn’t been done since Vietnam.”

Lopez and RIVRON-1 have the satisfaction of knowing they are the first such unit in the fight here, as squadrons Two and Three are currently being organized. For many of the Riverines, the special duty was a chance to break the “Blue-water Navy” cliché. As a 10-year veteran of the Navy, Lopez was pulled from a shore duty to become a Riverine. He’s seen the war in Iraq from nearly all perspectives, but said being on the ground – facing the same dangers as Soldiers and Marines - is truly special.

“It’s scary sometimes, but it’s also a great feeling going out there,” he said. “We gotta look out for IEDs, mines … sometimes we pull up and shore and the guys have AK-47s. It’s not like we’re on a ship, surrounded by a big gray hull.”

The Squadron, which carries less than 50 Riverines, has a proportionate mission. Counterinsurgency operations involve few clues, vague leads, broad search areas (nearly 200 square kilometers on Lake Thar Thar alone) and seemingly few returns. Although there are infrequent “jackpot” finds, it is clear that the tide of success ebbs and flows.

“There’s not a big war out here,” said Lopez, “we’re just looking for small groups of guys who are being jerks.”

For more information about the Fighting 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, visit the unit’s Web site at http://www.usmc.mil/13thMEU.

July 15, 2007

Military burn unit filled with pain, hope, humor

SAN ANTONIO – The five badly burned soldiers arrived around 11 p.m., sedated and swathed in bandages from head to foot – the screech of the plane's wheels on the tarmac and waiting ambulances marking the end of a 7,500-mile journey.


By Sharon Cohen
July 15, 2007

Dr. Kevin Chung waited inside Brooke Army Medical Center as the ambulance convoy zipped through the gates. He knew the soldiers were coming from Germany after being evacuated from Iraq.

A three-continent marathon, and this was the finish line.

Now Chung and some 30 doctors, nurses and others took over.

They cut open the men's bandages and, using diagrams of the human body, mapped the soldiers' burns – shading in red for third-degree, blue for second-degree – to plan for surgery.

They called the soldiers' families. They needed permission to operate. Quickly.

The men had been injured days earlier when a roadside bomb turned their Bradley fighting vehicle into an inferno. One man who had escaped ran back to help a trapped comrade.

“This one's the hero,” Chung said as the first stretcher rolled in.

"They're all heroes,” a nurse replied.

Chung did a bronchoscopy to check the patient's lungs. He threaded a fiber-optic scope into the tube connecting the soldier to a ventilator. Tarlike soot deposits appeared on a monitor.

To Chung, it looked as though someone had smoked 100 packs of cigarettes in 10 minutes.

If this soldier – the one who had escaped – had so much lung damage, what about the men who had been trapped?

He examined them and answered his own question.

Their lungs were worse.

Brooke's burn center – the only one of its kind for the nation's military – has its own rhythms and rituals.

The center's 40 beds are tucked in a fourth-floor wing of the sand-colored hospital at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. In the halls and on the walls are constant reminders of war: the scarred young men, the clocks set to Iraq and Afghanistan time.

This is a place where patients celebrate every small step toward recovery and where a clenched-teeth grimace speaks more eloquently than words.

It's also a place with a quiet sense of urgency.

Doctors operate in womblike, 90-degree heat, sometimes six at once working on a soldier; nurses in boots, masks and long gowns sweat as they scrub down patients in steaming showers; families congregate, longing for the day loved ones will emerge from the cocoon of bandages.

In another era, another war, many patients probably would never have made it this far.

But troops today have better body armor, fast evacuation from the battlefield to war-zone hospitals, then state-of-the-art treatment in Germany and the United States.

Brooke has special teams that fly to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany to bring home the most severe cases on a C-17 transport, sometimes handling emergencies in the air.

A soldier burned in Iraq can be in a hospital bed in San Antonio within 72 hours, sometimes less. In the Persian Gulf War, it took nearly 12 days. In Vietnam, it was closer to 17 days.

Once patients arrive at Brooke, skin grafts are usually done within 24 hours to stave off infection, the major cause of death. Decades ago, doctors waited days or weeks to perform surgery.

“The faster you get the burn off the patient, the better off you're going to do,” says Dr. David Barillo, chief of the flight evacuation team.

Brooke's burn center also treats civilians. But these days there is a steady flow of wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan – more than 570 thus far, of which only about 6 percent have died. Many survivors, however, are permanently scarred. Some also suffer from blast-related wounds, such as head injuries or fractures. Others can't walk, cut their food or tie their shoes.

“We now have an entirely new population of burn survivors . . . with oftentimes lifelong and life-changing injuries,” says Dr. Evan Renz, a Brooke surgeon.

Some will recover. Others will learn new ways to become independent.

“You have to believe that you're doing the best thing for the patient by helping them survive,” Renz says. “You have to believe that in the end, when all is said and done, they will be glad they made it through.”

Chung woke from a quick nap on his office couch the morning after the five badly burned soldiers arrived and walked down the hall to check on them.

All were stable, but the news quickly turned grim.

One soldier went into shock. His heart, lungs and kidneys failed. He died without regaining consciousness.

With burns, Chung says, patients can rally, then suddenly take a turn for the worse – all the while dealing with excruciating pain.

“I can't think of a more devastating injury,” he says. “In the most tragic instances, a lot of us say to ourselves . . . sometimes life is worse than death.”

Of the five burn patients, one was transferred out of intensive care.

The soldier who had escaped was rebounding, too. Then an infection set in, and he died.

Within three weeks, four of the five were gone.

Chung had lost patients before, but each one, he says, leaves him shaken.

“You walk a tightrope,” he says. “I tell the family members that they need to be realistic. At the same time, I don't want to be the person to take away hope. How can you justify giving up on anybody?”

Chung always reminds himself of the most critically burned patient he helped treat who survived.

That would be Sgt. Merlin German.

German's survival is a story of numbers:

Burned over 97 percent of his body.

Nearly 17 months in the hospital.

More than 40 surgeries, and counting.

Practically everyone who has met the Marine describes him with one word: miracle.

Sitting in the therapy gym, sucking on a “fentanyl pop” – a plastic stick tipped with a morphinelike painkiller – he pulls a T-shirt of his own design from his gym bag.

On the front, it says: “Got 3 percent chance of surviving; What ya gonna do?” The back lists four options: “a. Fight Through. b. Stay Strong. c. Overcome Because I Am A Warrior. d. All Of The Above!” The last one is circled.

But living choice “d” isn't easy.

It means one surgery after another, learning to walk again with grafts and adjusting to a ripple-scarred face.

But more than two years after German, 21, nearly died from a roadside bomb, he has a steely resolve and a tremendously supportive family led by his mother, Yvonne.

Last December, after months of practice, he donned his Marine dress blues and hit the dance floor at Brooke's Holiday Ball.

He surprised his mother, taking her into his wounded arms and gliding across the room to a Rod Stewart song, “Have I Told You Lately That I Loved You?”

The crowd stood and applauded. And cried.

German's path to the dance floor began in the intensive care unit.

It's where Capt. Kristine Broger, an ICU nurse, thrives in heat and silence.

She's accustomed to rooms set at 80 degrees or higher to help those who can't control their body temperature after their burned skin has been removed.

And she's familiar with patients who can't speak – at least, at first – because they're sedated or hooked to ventilators.

Broger meets those patients by talking with loved ones and looking at photos they tack up on the walls, snapshots that remind everyone of the person beneath the bandages.

Seeing these “kids” month after month, “they become part of you and you get to know the family like your own,” says Broger, who at 27 is a veteran of Iraq.

She has a strategy for coping with the ICU's stresses.

“After the locker room, I try not to bring anything home with me. But some days,” she says, “it's more difficult than others.”

Chris Edwards is in Year 3 as a burn-center regular.

The Army staff sergeant was wounded when a 500-pound bomb exploded under his Bradley as he was crossing a bridge in Iraq. He was burned over 79 percent of his body.

Since then, he has endured 34 surgeries, including grafts over his entire body, eye operations and holes drilled through his lower right leg bones and heel and metal rods inserted to stabilize them.

“You start thinking, what did I do to deserve this?” says Edwards, 36, who also served in the Marines. “It really tests your faith. Not only that, you're really thinking: What did my family do to deserve this?”

Some days, he says, “I just . . . beg somehow for God to kill me and take away the pain and just let me die.”

Yet Edwards still looks for humor – as he has all his life.

“If you're a patient and you laugh for a second, that's one second more that you don't have to worry about how bad things hurt. . . . For that second, you're a regular person. I try to keep people laughing as much as I can.”

Sgt. Shane Elder patched up the wounded in Iraq and sent them home to be healed.

Now he's treating burn survivors at Brooke, gently massaging and stretching their scars so they don't shrink and turn fingers into claws.

Elder, a former medic, is an occupational therapist's assistant. Off duty, he's just one of the guys, hosting an occasional poker game for patients at his home or joining them for dinner or a movie.

“You don't work with these guys . . . and just talk about your burn scar,” he says. “They become your friends.”

One of his first patients was a severely burned Marine. The men shared the same dry wit and taste in rock music.

When the Marine was about to be discharged, Elder invited him over.

Elder prepared his older son, then 3, knowing he might be frightened by the Marine's disfigured face. Instead, the little boy was fascinated by his prosthetic arm and asked, “Are you a robot?”

“Sort of,” the Marine replied.

After that, Elder's son joyfully squealed the Marine's name every time he visited. Last fall, Elder was a groomsman at his wedding.

Elder helps burn patients face their fears. His advice is simple:

“You're not the same person you were before,” he tells them. “If anything, you're a stronger person. . . . Get back out there.”

Marine Cpl. Roy VanWey is plotting his path away from the burn center.

A year ago, a bomb turned VanWey's Humvee into a fireball, killing three Marines who were with him and leaving him with burns over 70 percent of his body.

Since then, he has been through 10 surgeries. He recently had one to hold his head straight. Slowly, he is regaining his independence. He can now spool pasta, draw and sign his name even though he lost most of the fingers on his right hand. But he still is adjusting to his changing face – pink, blotchy, raw.

He knows people stare when he goes to the mall, the movies or out to dinner.

“When I'm talking to people, I feel like the same person inside,” VanWey says. “But when I look in the mirror, I feel like I'm looking at a stranger.”

His wife, Cassi, offers a visitor a laminated Marine photo identification card showing a handsome man with bright eyes and a wide smile. Then she turns to her husband of 18 months and says: “I don't care what you look like. I love both faces the same.”

With her at his side, VanWey sorts out his life after Brooke, “mourning the death of the person I used to be,” he says, “and having to come to terms with who I'm going to be the rest of my life.”

Determinedly, he looks ahead.

“I've got to make the best of it,” he says. “At least I'm alive.”

July 14, 2007

CLB-13 Marine serves 5th tour in Iraq

AL TAQADDUM, Iraq (July 14, 2007) -- With Marine Corps operational tempo at an all-time high, there are Marines out there who don’t mind the deployments-- even after five of them.


July 14, 2007; Submitted on: 07/14/2007 06:45:17 AM ; Story ID#: 200771464517
By Staff Sgt. Matthew O. Holly, 13th MEU

Sergeant Tasha Monz, field radio operator for Combat Logistics Battalion 13, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit and six-year veteran of the Marine Corps, is currently serving her fifth tour in Iraq.

“Anything that a Marine can do out here, she has done,” said Capt. Michael D. Pitre, officer in charge of Monz, about her experience and leadership she brings to the table with five deployments under her belt. “She’s great!”

As one can guess, the climate in Iraq has certainly changed since her first deployment during Operation Iraqi Freedom II.

“The Marine Corps has come a long way (in Iraq). The people of Iraq have grown to appreciate us rather than being afraid and angry with us,” said Monz, a Cincinnati, Ohio native. “I remember doing convoys in OIF II and getting rocks and all sorts of things thrown at us. Now we get waived at and offered gifts.”

She also noted the cities have been cleaned up a great deal and believes we aren’t the only ones who understand what’s being done here.

The changes aren’t only here in Iraq, but on the home front too. Monz’s parents were terrified the first time she came over here.

“Whose families weren’t,” she said. “Now they are used to it.” She continued, “They obviously still worry about me, but it isn’t half as bad as it used to be.” Her family and friends now understand if she doesn’t contact them for a few weeks she’s probably busy or just unable to get to a phone or computer during that time.

The Oak Hill High School graduate continued to explain how the more she’s gone the stronger the bond is with her family.

When Monz was asked how long she planned on staying in the Corps she stated that she wasn’t sure yet. She wants to start a family, yet she loves the life the Marine Corps offers her. She recognizes she has some tough decisions to ponder in the near future.

Until then, Monz goal is to see her “fellow” female Marines be outgoing and to step up and perform when called upon.

“We already have a point to prove,” Monz said with a smile, “and having more deployments under your belt makes it easier.” She’s still smiling.

Monz has already made plans to stay with the 13th MEU for their next scheduled deployment in 2008. Number six…?

PPE stops round, saves Marine

NEAR KARMAH, Iraq (July 14, 2007) -- Over the past decade there have been significant advancements in body armor. During that time there have also been heated debates concerning the performance and effectiveness of the body armor being used by Marines.

Click above link for photo.

July 14, 2007; Submitted on: 07/14/2007 05:28:58 AM ; Story ID#: 200771452858
By Lance Cpl. Timothy M. Stewman, 13th MEU

One Marine with Battalion Landing Team 3/1 got to see first-hand just how effective his issued body armor is.

“We were out doing a vehicle mounted patrol and we dismounted, that’s when I heard the first shot,” said Sgt. Travis Tollison, India Company, 3rd platoon guide. “I tried to find out where the original shot came from and I heard a second shot. I went into the prone position when I realized that I had been hit. I reached to my lower back and was beginning to feel pain. The round had gone through my Camelbak and I felt the water which, at the time, I thought it was blood. When the corpsman looked me over I only had a bruise on the left side of my lower back. The round had embedded into my back SAPI (Small-Arms Protective Insert) plate. I believe without the plate, I would be telling a whole different story.”

The Marines in his platoon don’t hesitate to give Tollison a hard time about the incident. It usually consists of an impression of how he looked when he realized that he had been hit. The guys get a good laugh from the incident, but they know just how fortunate Tollison is that his gear did what it was supposed to.

With all the controversy surrounding civilian companies claiming to have more effective gear for combat, Marines and their family members have considered the use of civilian body armor over government issued. Recently Headquarters Marine Corps made the decision to prohibit the use of civilian body armor in combat. Marines on the front lines understand the functionality of the body armor and have confidence in the protection it provides.

“There are always going to be things to complain about when it comes to body armor, especially with the addition of the side SAPI plates,” said Tollison, an Anderson, S.C. native. “Though the weight isn’t exactly pleasant, the payoff is protection that is combat tried and tested.”

One thing about combat body armor is that technology is constantly advancing. The Marine Corps continually researches and develops new and more effective ways to keep the men and women who serve in combat safer. For now, the body armor being used today is holding its own, protecting Marines.

For more information about the 13th MEU, visit www.usmc.mil/13thmeu.

July 13, 2007

Marines combat PTSD

MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII (July 13, 2007) -- Combat related stress has again become an issue for service members who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Marine Corps recognizes this problem, and has been putting forth their best effort to help treat and cure Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.


July 13, 2007; Submitted on: 07/13/2007 03:13:40 PM ; Story ID#: 2007713151340
By Lance Cpl. Regina A. Ruisi, MCB Hawaii

“As our Marines and Sailors return home from combat, our support programs must be on a wartime footing to meet their needs as they transition back to life here at home,” said Gen. James T. Conway, Commandant of the Marine Corps. “These returning warriors have proven their dedication to Corps and Country and deserve our level best. We will take care of our own –that’s what Marines do, period.”

One in five service members who have returned from a combat zone experience symptoms for PTSD, said Dr. Earnest Hanes, psychologist at the Post Deployment Health Clinic here. Because PTSD is treatable, service members are urged to seek help for their condition.

“Seeking help can help service members suffering from PTSD lead full and productive lives without turning to alcoholism or drug abuse like was common in World War II or Vietnam,” Hanes said. “The military is coming to terms with the need for mental health services to be provided to our returning warriors and our goal is to get people back on their feet and working.”

Family members or the service member can recognize symptoms of PTSD themselves. Symptoms can be broken down into three basic parts; re-experiencing, avoidance and being on edge.

Re-experiencing happens when a service member experiences vivid memories or nightmares of their traumatic experience. Being able to deal with severely traumatic experiences isn’t naturally scripted into humans’ brains, so PTSD is a common result to responding to a traumatic event, Hanes said.

Avoidance comes in the form of keeping busy to ignore the problem, or even ignoring family members or social gatherings to keep from talking about the experience. Avoidance can lead to weakening personal relationships and even wearing out the body because of trying to stay constantly active, Hanes said.

Being on edge is a common symptom of PTSD. This is the “shell-shock” part of PTSD, when a service member is easily startled, quick to anger or irritability, or hyper-vigilant in social settings. Someone who is on edge could have trouble relaxing and getting to sleep, Hanes said.

Service members need to know that there is help available for them. Seeking help from medical clinics or their chaplain can help the service member battle and cure PTSD.

“A good way to combat combat stress is being active in the community, PT regularly, eat healthy and keep active,” said Navy Lt. Robert S. Nelson, chaplain, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. “There are several places they can go on base for help. There’s the chaplain, medical and Marine Corps Community Services. When Marines come up to me, I help them as much as I can by talking to them, but I still refer them to medical and MCCS so they can get all the help they need.”

2nd Battalion, 9th Marines back in the fight

After just three years in existence, the Anti-Terrorism Battalion was deactivated Friday morning to make way for growth in the Marine Corps.


July 13, 2007 - 11:14PM

In its stead, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines was reactivated as the Corps’ newest infantry battalion. With a history described best by the battalion’s nickname “Hell in a Helmet,” 2/9’s new commander, Lt. Col. Thad R. Trapp, said they aim to carry on the legacy.

“This is a day we resurrect a battalion with a very esteemed history,” Trapp said during Friday’s ceremony at W.P.T. Hill Field. “(To the former Marines of 2/9) I promise you we will uphold that honor.”

More than 700 Marines make up the unit, reactivated as a part of the commandant’s long-range plan to increase the Corps’ end-strength to 202,000 Marines by 2011. It was the second 9th Marines battalion to reactivate this year.

“I’m absolutely excited about this challenge,” Trapp said. “The challenge is the same as any other battalion — less resources and time than you’d like to prepare Marines for a deployment to a humanitarian crisis or to fight the War on Terror. But I know the Marines are always up to the challenge.”

The battalion, which falls under 6th Marine Regiment, is expected to deploy sometime, though Trapp said no date has been set. Troops with AT Battalion participated in numerous deployments to Iraq — about 350 Marines with the unit are still serving in Iraq now, Trapp said.

The AT Battalion was activated Oct. 29, 2004, under the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, which was deactivated in February 2006 on the same day Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command stood up.

AT Battalion’s mission was to “rapidly deploy specially trained and sustainable forces to detect, deter, and defend against terrorism, as well as to conduct crisis response in the event of a terrorist attack,” according to the AT Battalion Web site.

“This is not a sad day for AT Battalion,” said Lt. Col. Richard C. Jackson II, the unit’s commanding officer. “We need to have the foresight and flexibility to adapt to our circumstances. AT Battalion did that and we needed to adapt to our needs today.”

The continuity lies with the Marines themselves who will continue to do their jobs with excellence, he said.

“I think people will respect what AT Battalion has done today,” he said.
Marines trained in intelligence, counter-intelligence, engineering and nuclear, biological and chemical teams will be reassigned to their parent commands as 2/9 makes room for infantry troops. AT Battalion also included troops with a specialty in explosive ordnance disposal, military working dogs, linguists and electronic warfare assets, according to their Web site.

“Marines with AT Battalion are specially trained, so they won’t easily transition to infantry,” Trapp said.

His father, retired Lt. Col. Dick Trapp, a former 2/9 Marine who served in Vietnam, said he knows the battalion is in good hands.

“It will be taken care of,” he said. “I feel pride that he is taking this command.”
Retired Master Gunnery Sgt. Ed Fritts, formerly of 2/9, said it was an honor to be a part of Friday’s reactivation.

“I’ve got great memories of comradeship and the people I served with, the things we’ve done,” said Fritts, part of 2/9’s flame thrower platoon. “It’s part of the honor, integrity and courage the Marines have with them. I see it today.”

Former 2/9 Marine Jim Hostetler agreed.

“It means a lot to me to be here today,” said Hostetler, who deployed with the unit during Vietnam. “The 9th Marines is a big heritage — a lot of history. We were hell to deal with — that’s all. We didn’t stop for anything.”

1/11 Marines relieve ‘Bearcats’

AL TAQADDUM, Iraq (July 13, 2007) -- Army Lt. Col. Gregg L. Parks, battalion commander of 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry Regiment, handed the reins of his unit’s area of operations over to Marine Lt. Col. Phillip W. Boggs, commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, in a transfer of authority ceremony here July 13.


Cpl. Thomas J. Griffith

The 2-136, a Twin Lakes, Minn., based Army National Guard unit, has been running security operations in the local area for 16 months.

“The 2-136 is a fantastic unit,” said Boggs, a Greenville, S.C., native. “They have been very dedicated to the mission and integrated well with the Marines they worked with. They were very aggressive in their actions and are true professionals.”

Parks said working for 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) has been a unique experience for himself and his soldiers.

“We have gained a great respect for the ‘esprit de corps’ and high level of motivation that most Marines possess,” he said.

During their tenure here, the 2-136, also known as the “Bearcats,” rescued four local nationals from torture houses in Fallujah and Abu Ghraib, detained more than 300 anti-Iraqi forces, conducted five cooperative medical engagements in which they helped treat more than 2,000 local nationals with medical problems, conducted nearly 4,000 combat patrols and helped local communities rebuild their infrastructure through dozens of civil affairs projects amounting to more than $1 million.

“The ‘Bearcats’ have proven themselves as relentless in taking the fight to the insurgency,” Parks explained. “Our soldiers were able to win the trust and confidence of the Iraqi people in our sector. Through aggressive patrolling in our sector, we have managed to constantly keep the enemy off balance.”

Despite the Guard unit’s extensive activation, 250 soldiers reenlisted, 72 percent of all those eligible.

Parks said he is confident that 1st Bn., 11th Marines will be able to handle the area of operations effectively.

“They have proven themselves as a professional organization who quickly were able to take the reins from my soldiers,” said the Walker, Minn., native. “They have a lot of quality junior (noncommissioned officers) and officers who will do a great job of keeping the enemy in check.”

According to Parks, the most positive thing coming from their extended stay here are the changes occurring throughout the province.

“When we arrived, Al Anbar was considered a lost province and recently it has become a model of success for the rest of Iraq,” he added.

He cited the actions of sheiks and village leaders around the province standing up against enemy forces and the fact that when the “Bearcats” first arrived there were no Iraqi soldiers or policemen in the area of operations.

“Now both are everywhere doing great things for the Iraqi people,” said Parks, who is an educator in the Walker-Hackensack-Akeley School District in Minnesota. “The Iraqi security forces’ influence is growing daily as both organizations take on larger roles.”

As the 2-136 departs for a well-deserved break, 1st Bn., 11th Marines plan to continue on with the successes made by the soldiers in the province.

“We’re looking forward to completing the mission and making sure we continue on with the same successes as the 2-136,” said Boggs. “1/11 is very well trained and ready for the task at hand. The NCOs and Marines have put a lot of work into getting prepared and trained.”

Parks closed by thanking the Marines and wishing them well.

“I wish them the best during their deployment and pray that all will return safely home to their families.”

Role-model town produces positive results

ANAH, Iraq (July 13, 2007) -- The air smelled clean, the roads were paved and spotless, and the laughter of children echoed through the streets. A young girl, in a lilac colored dress, sprayed her driveway down with a garden hose proving the plumbing worked in her town. Men, women and children gave friendly waves to the Marines and Iraqi policemen as they patrolled through the secure streets here.


July 13, 2007

By Cpl. Eric C. Schwartz, 2nd Marine Division

“Patrols like these let the people know we are fighting for them, and they see that,” said Lance Cpl. Charles Tobin, a SAW gunner with Bravo Company Proper, Task Force 1st Battalion, 4th Marines proper, attached to 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 2.

The mixed patrol of Iraqi police and Marines passed through alleyways and side streets where instead of littered ground and walls covered in graffiti, the curbs had neatly swept piles of dirt and the houses freshly painted.

“The average Anah person seems more affluent than the average Iraqi,” said Cpl. Steven Kreyenhagen, a team leader with Bravo Company.

The Iraqi police explain that the townspeople here are mostly college educated, and all of their children attend school.

“There are schools established in town, and the teachers speak great English,” Kreyenhagen said.

The Marines and IPs stopped into the local markets, full of vegetables, dry goods, electronics and clothing, to buy snacks for local children and bread to share with their brother Marines not on patrol.

"I like interacting with the people,” Tobin said. “You can be having a horrible day and the kids will crack you up, making your day all better.”

Children waved at the patrol and saluted the IPs with the open-handed salute traditionally given to Iraqi officers as a sign of respect.

“The area has some five and six-year-olds speaking better English than me,” Tobin said.

A grasp of the English language doesn’t make the people of Anah superior to other towns but understanding the language of its protector’s means they have a worldly view on the coalition’s mission in Iraq.

“My squad’s been invited to dinner twice already by friendly homes,” said Sgt. Tacoma Parris, a squadleader and native of New York City. “They’ve gained our trust.”

Trust aside, the town still hides some insurgents rather willingly, or by force.

“Most of the time the locals won’t tell us who planted the IEDs,” Parris said. “They’ll tell the IPs because the IPs are from the neighborhood.”

The townspeople know their neighborhood, and they tell their IPs because they want safety.

“They’d rather tell a buddy, or brother they grew up with,” Parris said. “They trust us, but not wholeheartedly.”

Anah is filled with hardworking, educated citizens, but those who travel outside of the safe town are affected by the less positive situations occurring in other parts of Iraq.

“I used to take the bus five days a week to work before the war,” said Ghassan Thabet, an electrical engineer living in Anah. “The road is now dangerous to Al Qa’im.”

Food rations are given to the unemployed people of Iraq by its newly established government. With help from coalition forces and the strength of local police, the roads will become safer and buses will carry hard working people like Thabet.

Constant, friendly patrols, mixed with IPs and Marines, keep the citizens of Anah safe and help the locals here see there is a transition happening, and that terrorism will eventually subside.

July 12, 2007

Marines, Iraqi Army prove command, control capability

IBRAHIMIYAH PENINSULA, Iraq (July 12, 2007) -- The small towns in the Ibrahimiyah Peninsula arose early morning to the Iraqi Army and Marines with Weapons Company, Task Force 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 2, searching the area for signs of insurgent activity.


July 12, 2007

By Cpl. Eric C. Schwartz, 2nd Marine Division

“The Iraqi Army planned everything,” said Sgt. David Collins, a platoon sergeant with Weapons Company, TF 1/4, RCT- 2. “The operation was their idea and concept.”

Two Iraqi Army battalions, along with help from coalition forces, completely planned the operation, demonstrating their capability for future success in their country.

“The IA 3rd Brigade put together all elements in command and control of the operation,” said Capt. Jeff Dyal, the operations officer for TF 1/4, “planning, coordinating and executing the whole mission.”

Marines from Task Force 1/4 worked alongside the IA searching homes for weapons, contraband, improvised explosive devices’ materials and known insurgents.

“We followed the IA to each city and were there to provide cover if they needed the help,” Collins said.

The operation spanned the Ibrahimiyah Peninsula consisting of small, scattered towns normally unreachable because of their remote location. Although Iraqi Army planned operations aren’t new, the sheer size of this operation was a relatively uncharted territory.

“The smaller operations in the past have been well organized, but the size of this one went well,” Collins said.

Each home was thoroughly searched in each of the four towns visited, and it was all done in one day.

“They could interact with the people entering the houses much easier because these people are like themselves,” Dyal said.

“The IA moved pretty fast through the towns,” said Cpl. Christian Whitehead, a tow-gunner with Weapons Company, TF 1/4.

The organization of the IA made the movement between towns’ fluid and fast while the buildings were searched completely through.

“The IA’s officers had good accountability of their soldiers,” said Cpl. Jesse Trumble, a rifleman with the Military Transition Team attached to TF 1/4. “The jundi, or soldiers, could search quickly and thoroughly, since everyone knew where everyone was supposed to be.”

The IA, along with the Marines, collected all of the intelligence found during the mission along with one possible insurgent.

Operation Justice Reach stretched out to the normally unchecked Ibrahimiyah Peninsula that day, showing the townspeople the IA haven’t forgotten about their security.

“They really have the basics down perfectly,” Collins said. “The IA used good vehicle dispersion, cordon and searches were smooth and fast, and they seemed to have an overall control of the mission.”

With each successful IA mission, the IA’s prove themselves capable of taking responsibility for larger areas.

“It’s a transition of responsibility we’re working on giving to the IA,” Dyal said.

“This is the first step in transitioning battle space and allowing the Marines to move into an over-watch position,” Dyal said.

The IA proved their capability of command and control during Operation Justice Reach and will eventually be given control of the area.

Fuji Marines, sailors continue relationship with local orphanage

CAMP FUJI, Japan (July 12, 2007) -- Since he was four-years-old, Akira Tanaka has visited the Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji to interact with the Marines and sailors here, who he said he likes to call his family.


July 12, 2007

By Lance Cpl. Bryan A. Peterson, MCB Camp Butler

Tanaka, now 11, and 36 other Japanese children living at the Seishin Orphanage visited the camp again July 8 to attend a day of sporting events and a barbecue.

When the children arrived, it didn’t take them long to unload their bus and pick up a bat and wiffle ball or climb all over the Marines and sailors.

Navy Lt. Carl B. Muehler, the Camp Fuji chaplain, said the visits have been ongoing for nearly 30 years, and despite a language barrier, they always prove to be enjoyable.

“The orphanage has been bringing children here for a long time, and we plan to keep it that way,” he said. “Sure, we might not understand each other’s language, but when there are smiles on the Japanese and American faces, you know they are having a good time together.”

The relationship between service members at the camp and children and staff at the orphanage began when Tadaniro Yoshikawa, the director of the orphanage, met a Marine officer and the two organized the first visit. But when the Marine changed duty stations, the visits briefly stopped.

In 1982, the former Camp Fuji commanding officer’s secretary rekindled the relationship, said Hiromi Ozawa, the current commanding officer’s secretary.

“Back then, the children loved being with the Marines and sailors here according to my predecessor, Shigeko Nakai,” Ozawa said. “She felt the need to start inviting the orphanage back because the Marines and sailors bring light into the children’s world.”

At first, the children only visited the camp twice a year, but as the relationship progressed, the visits became more frequent, she said. Now the children visit the camp at least 12 times a year including some holidays.

Sgt. Gerald S. Salvacruz, the camp’s career retention specialist, said he enjoys the visits, but it’s difficult knowing at the end of the day the children will have to go back to the orphanage.

“I tell the Marines when they play with the children that it will be painful to watch them leave,” he said. “Some of the guys here have kids back in the States, and when they see the little kids it reminds them of their own.”

After spending about eight hours with the Marines and sailors, the children had to leave. Tanaka said before the number of visits increased, he used to get emotional when getting back on the bus. Now, he remains cheerful because he knows he will visit again soon.

“Since I can remember, I have always had a good time with them,” he said. “I have never met my real family, but the Americans have always made me feel welcome, and that’s why I call them my family.”

July 9, 2007

India Company’s Weapons Platoon, more than just grunts

NEAR KARMAH, Iraq (July 9, 2007) -- The ins and outs of an infantry platoon can be confusing to someone who knows little to nothing about the infantry. A weapons platoon can even have the most experienced Marines scratching their heads.


July 9, 2007; Submitted on: 07/09/2007 06:15:34 AM ; Story ID#: 20077961534
By Lance Cpl. Timothy M. Stewman, 13th MEU

It is this mix of specific jobs that make Weapons Platoon, India Company, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment so unique.

Within a weapons platoon there are riflemen, machine gunners, mortarmen and assaultmen. Depending on platoon operations, artillerymen may be added for manpower and firepower.

Riflemen are the core of the infantry. These “ground pounders” are trained to locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver and to repel an enemy assault by fire or close combat.

Machine gunners hold the fire power of a platoon. With big caliber, automatic weapons such as the M2 .50 caliber machine gun and the M-249 squad automatic weapon, machine gunners provide suppressive fire and are trained on the operations and mechanics of common machine guns used in the Marine Corps.

The mortarmen are aces when firing 60mm mortar rounds down range. They have an excellent understanding of how to be more effective in situations when bigger, long-range weaponry is needed.

Assaultmen deal with demolition and small rockets, such as the M163 shoulder launched multi-purpose assault weapon. They are experts in different types of demolition and the proper techniques of specific weapons within their arsenal.

With Marines qualified in many aspects of ground combat, a platoon with this amount of firepower is well prepared when tasked with any type of mission. Learning other jobs within weapons platoon is extremely beneficial during training, for future combat operations, and keeps Marines ready for anything they encounter.

“It’s not just rifleman we have trained,” said Cpl. Ian Abney, a machine gunner with weapons platoon, India Co. “We train Marines from every infantry job specialty there is.”

For some there may still be confusion about who’s who in weapons platoon. The exceptionally trained and equally modest Marines of weapons platoon simply say, “Being called ‘grunts’ suits us fine.”

Whatever you hear them being called, know that they - the Marines of Weapons platoon, India Co., are getting the job done.

Marine killed in Anbar

The Associated Press
Posted : Monday Jul 9, 2007 19:08:25 EDT

OKLAHOMA CITY — A Harrah Marine died in Iraq after being hit by a roadside bomb explosion, his family confirmed Monday.

To continue reading:


July 8, 2007

Local mayor promotes 1st LAR Marine

COMBAT OUTPOST RAWAH, Iraq - (July 8, 2007) -- Usually when Marines pin on their new rank, they look to a mentor within their unit to do the honors but it isn’t uncommon for a loved one to step in to do the promotion either.


July 8, 2007; Submitted on: 07/08/2007 11:19:26 AM ; Story ID#: 200778111926
By Cpl. Ryan C. Heiser, 2nd Marine Division

Newly appointed 1st Lt. Damon A. Doykos wanted his promotion to be important not just to himself, but to the entire Rawah community. Doykos, a platoon commander with Company D, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 2, was promoted by the mayor of Rawah, Iraq, Hamed Khalid Abrahim.

“The mayor lives in my area of responsibility, so we interact quite often,” said Doykos. “When he has a problem he comes to me, and vise versa. This is a symbol of our friendship, to show all of Iraq that the Marine Corps and the local civil leadership are working together.”

The promotion took place in the center of the city, which overlooks the Euphrates River, in a building Company D and the Iraqi Police share. The city council was also present at the ceremony to show their support.

“Hopefully this reaffirms in everyone’s minds the trust the city council and the Marines have,” said Staff Sgt. Steven A. Lefevre, a platoon sergeant with the company. “We have built a good bond together, and stuff likes this continues to broaden communication lines.”

Lefevre, a native of North Brookfield, Mass., also said the event reiterates that good things are happening in the country.

“No matter how bad it might seem to folks back home, this proves that progress is being made, and that we are moving forward in this country,” he said.

Doykos, a native of Sacramento, Calif., said one of the reasons he chose the mayor to pin on his new rank was to show the local citizens the battalion wasn’t abandoning them.

“More and more we have Iraqi police and Iraqi soldiers stepping in and doing things we used to do, taking over the city’s protection. I wanted to include the citizens to show them even though we are working towards that provincial Iraqi control, we haven’t forgotten them,” Doykos said.

The platoon commander said since the battalion has taken control of the city, attacks on coalition forces have dropped to near zero and over 60 individuals suspected of terrorist acts have been captured and detained. He said the trust between the council and the Marines has grown exponentially in the three months the unit has been in the area.

“It shows them we respect them as leaders to let them into what would be considered a ‘secret ceremony’,” said Doykos. “The city, and all of Iraq now, can see the Marine Corps isn’t here as a big secret club that takes over and controls everything, we are here on the individual citizen’s behalf, working with local city councils and government leaders toward a better Rawah, and overall a better Iraq.”

13th MEU finds more than 17 metric tons of explosives

CAMP AL TAQADDUM, Iraq – Marines from Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, discovered more than 17,000 kilograms of explosives in a series of weapons cache finds northeast of Thar Thar Dam July 4-6.


Multi-National Corps – Iraq
Public Affairs Office, Camp Victory
APO AE 09342

July 8, 2007

A homemade explosives factory and nearby weapons cache discovered July 6 by Weapons Company, BLT 3/1, contained more than 6,000 kilograms of homemade explosives, 8,000 kilograms of ammonium nitrate, a common HME component, and the equipment to mix, manufacture and transport large quantities of the explosives.

Company I Marines found three separate weapons caches July 5 north of Karmah containing the following:

- nearly 10,000 kilograms of ammonium nitrate

- 200 jugs of nitric acid, each approximately 30 kilograms

- 125 kilograms of homemade explosives

- 3,500 kilograms of fertilizer

- 250 kilograms of chlorine

On July 4, Marines from Weapons Company discovered a cache east of Lake Thar Thar that contained 4.5 kilograms of homemade explosives, (12) 155mm projectiles, (8) 120mm mortars, (4,700) 14.5mm rounds, (752) 25mm rounds and an assortment of other weapons and ammunition.

The cache containing the nitric acid, homemade explosives and chlorine was destroyed by an F/A-18 Hornet air strike. All remaining caches were destroyed by Combat Logistics Battalion 13 Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams.

Current operations are underway in an effort to disrupt enemy activities and locate such weapons caches north of Fallujah and Karmah, an area in which Coalition Forces have not frequently operated.

Headquartered at Camp Al Taqaddum, Iraq, the California-based Marine Air-Ground Task Force began operations June 15 as part of the troop surge in support of Operation Phantom Thunder.

July 7, 2007

RCT-6 continues Operation Alljah in Fallujah

FALLUJAH, Iraq (July 7, 2007) -- Marines with 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, recently completed another phase of Operation Alljah here June 30. The Marines, working with Iraqi soldiers and Iraqi Police, worked attentively to fortify an abandoned Iraqi home that later became one of many Iraqi Police precincts in the city.


July 7, 2007

By Cpl. Joel Abshier, 2nd Marine Division

The mission of Operation Alljah is to provide stability and protection for the citizens of Fallujah. Sectioning the city into precincts, Marines work with the Iraqi Police and Army to set up police stations where Iraqi civilians come in to receive identification cards, food, reimbursements and a chance to join the neighborhood watch program.

One of the goals for the Spartans of 2/6 is to change the terrain within the city to throw off the Anti-Iraqi Forces. In doing so, it will allow the citizens of Fallujah to support and defend themselves when U.S. forces leave the area of operation.

“Our ultimate goal is getting the enemy out of the city,” said Capt. Mark C. Cameron, assistant operations officer for 2/6. “Or at a minimum, not allowing them to operate in the city without dire consequences, such as being arrested, captured or killed. We’ve changed the terrain to favor the defenders.”

Operation Alljah is a multi-phased operation, with different portions of the city targeted for partitioning by Coalition Forces at each phase of the operation. Erecting blockades and barriers to control the vehicle traffic of each area is the first step. Once established, forces move in, gain a foothold and begin assisting the residents within the respective districts.

“We’re giving (the residents) a certain amount of security that will allow the operation to be conducted,” Cameron said. “At the most fundamental level, we are building up a neighborhood watch. It’s not the same kind of neighborhood watch that you would see in the States though. Here, they are involved in actual operations and assist the Iraqi Police in dealing with the anti-Iraqi forces.”

The operation itself is a borrowed concept from what 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, did in the city of Ramadi.

“We’re basically doing the same thing,” admitted 1st. Lt. Justin Hunter, commanding officer of 4th Platoon, Company C, Combat Engineer Battalion, attached to 2/6. “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.”

The neighborhood watch was created to help security for the residents in the city. “Who better to defend a certain piece of terrain than the people who live there? They have a greater appreciation for the area and also have more situational awareness and understanding of who lives within that area. They are a large asset in this operation,” said Cameron.

Marines with Company E, 2/6, have an established area, Observation Post Fenton, located next to the new precinct that provides added security against terrorists from within and outside Fallujah.

“For our end state, we want to hand over the city to the Iraqi Police when their level of capability in dealing with consistent, multiple planned attacks is steady,” Cameron said. “In time they will be able to stave off any AIF without the aid of 2/6.”

Other entities, such as combat engineers, police and military transition teams, and civil affairs Marines attached to 2/6 assisted in the development of the precinct.

“The enemy hasn’t and won’t be able to effect our level of success or our will,” Cameron admitted. “We’re not slowing down our pace anytime soon.”

OKC Marine Reserve unit to leave for Iraq

OKLAHOMA CITY -- A large contingent of Marines from the Armed Forces Reserve Center will leave for Iraq next week for a seven-month tour of duty.


By MANNY GAMALLO World Staff Writer

Marine 1st Sgt. Scott Baker said 131 reservists with the Fox Battery of the 2nd Battalion, 14th Marines, 4th Marine Division will head to the al-Anbar Province in western Iraq.

He said the Marines will leave next week, possibly Monday or Tuesday. They will leave Oklahoma, fly to Riverside, Calif., and from there head to Iraq.

In Iraq, the Marines will be based at the al-Asad Air Base, the second-largest air base in Iraq.

The base is south of Haditha, northwest of Ramadi and Fallujah.

Baker said this is the largest deployment from Oklahoma City since Operation Desert Storm in 1990-91.

He said the Marines from Oklahoma City will be the first in the history of the Marine Corps to use the HIMARS, or High Mobility Artillery Rocket System.

"The Army has been using this system, but this will be the first time for the Marines," Baker said. "We're really excited."

Baker said the rockets can hit a mailbox from 60 miles away.

"It limits collateral damage," he said. "If you wanted to hit just the south side of a building in Fallujah, you can do that without damaging the north side of the building."

He said the Oklahoma City-based Marines trained on the system last summer at Fort Sill, and others received additional training at the Marine base at Twentynine Palms, Calif.

The first rocket fired in Iraq by the Oklahoma Marines will be in honor of Lance Cpl. Trevor Roberts, 21, of Oklahoma City, Baker said.

Roberts, assigned to the Marine Forces Reserve's 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division at Oklahoma City, was killed March 24 in a roadside bomb attack in the al-Anbar Province.

Most of the Marines who are heading to Iraq next week attended his funeral April 2.

Roberts was the only Marine from the Oklahoma center to be killed in the war in Iraq.

Baker said about 40 Marines from the Oklahoma City reserve center have gone to Iraq, but they went with other units.

The 131 Marines leaving next week will be the largest mass deployment from Oklahoma City.

Baker said most of those going are from Oklahoma City, but others are from elsewhere in Oklahoma, along with a few from Kansas and Texas.

The unit's equipment has been shipped to Iraq.

July 6, 2007

Outback Steakhouse customer satisfaction reaches all time high during operation Feeding Freedom Five

AL ASAD, Iraq (July 6, 2007) -- Smells of secret sauces and spices filled the inside of the dining facility as employees from Outback Steakhouse prepared Bloomin’ Onions, calamari, and pasta. Outside, the scent of sizzling steaks rose from the grill and wafted throughout the base.


July 6, 2007; Submitted on: 07/06/2007 07:44:33 AM ; Story ID#: 20077674433
By Sgt. Ryan R. Jackson, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (FWD)

A task force of 22 employees from Outback Steakhouse and its sister company Carrabba’s Italian Grill fed the troops of Al Asad during Feeding Freedom Five, June 17.

To complete their mission they had to reach one goal: give the service members the best meal of their deployment.

“We came to show our support and it’s a way for us to say thank you from Carrabba’s and Outback,” said Josh Upton, a national food technician for Carrabba’s Italian Grill and the team leader for the operation. “One of our philosophies is to give for the sake of giving, not to get something back.”

Outback Steakhouse began arranging Feeding Freedom Five in November of 2006. The tours, which are semi-annual, are designed to feed deployed service members throughout the Middle East, feeding troops in Afghanistan, Kuwait, Salerno and Iraq.

According to Shanda Breedlove, a service technician at Outback Steakhouse in Atlanta, Ga., the point of the tour was to bring service members a taste of home and give them a good meal.

“It’s been very exciting, it’s nice to see their faces, they really appreciate this and it’s not enough thanks for what they do for us,” said Breedlove. “It’s very simple, but I’m glad it means a lot to them.”

To achieve the same freshness and food quality as a steakhouse from home, the company donated all of the food. The rib eye steaks, potatoes, onions, and calamari we’re flown over to provide the highest degree of freshness and satisfaction for the troops.

In order to produce a meal for approximately 13,000 service members and contractors on Al Asad, the Outback employees took a lesson from the troops; they learned to adapt and overcome.

The biggest challenge the Outback employees faced was making sure everything came together including preparation time and ingredients, added Matt Bregner, a food quality control technician for Outback restaurants in the Penn. region.

The team spent the night before the dinner preparing the Bloomin’ Onions, Bloomin’ Onion sauce and potatoes at all three base dining facilities. They cut the fresh onions with a special press and then made the Bloomin’ Onion sauce by mixing secret ingredients. Finally, they rinsed the potatoes in salt and butter before baking them.

“Preparation wise, it takes about eight hours for this many people,” said Upton. “We cook the steaks non-stop from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. to get them all done. We have 14,000 steaks. The last feeding we had, we served fillets and every Marine came up for two steaks and a potato.”

The Outback employees had mixed predictions on what the troops would like the most, but they had it cornered to either the Bloomin’ Onion or the steak. The votes weren’t quite unanimous among the service members, but the two most popular menu items were the Bloomin’ Onion and the rib eye steak.

“The bloomin onion was the best part of the meal,” commented Lance Cpl. Jeff Harris, a data network specialist with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163.

After reflecting on the meal with a full belly, service members found they appreciated more than just the steak.

“The steak is juicy, it’s tender and it’s not overcooked,” said Lance Cpl. Arthur Watson, a Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 29 avionics technician. “It reminds me of back home and this shows us that there are actually people out there who care.”

Tortuga Arrives in Sydney

SYDNEY, Australia (NNS) -- USS Tortuga (LSD 46), elements from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and embarked midshipmen arrived in Sydney July 5 for a scheduled port visit after completing Exercise Talisman Saber 2007 (TS07).


Story Number: NNS070706-09
Release Date: 7/6/2007 10:36:00 AM
By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brandon A. Myrick, USS Tortuga Public Affairs

Talisman Saber’s field training component of the exercises concluded July 3. It was a joint and combined exercise demonstrating and improving on the U.S.-Australian military alliance that featured crisis action planning and execution of contingency response operations in land, sea and air maneuvers.

“The Sailors and Marines have worked incredibly hard to make the TS07 exercise a success and deserve this kind of port visit,” said Tortuga Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Todd A. Lewis. “This will be a great opportunity for Tortuga to enjoy the sights and hospitality of this city. We are in for a treat.”

Sailors and Marines will have the chance to appreciate the entire city while taking part in ship-sponsored Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) tours.

“I have always wanted to visit Australia for as long as I can remember,” said Fire Controlman 3rd Class Chris M. Searles. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I plan to take full advantage of the tours offered.”

While there are plenty of leisurely activities for the Sailors and Marines to take part in while visiting Sydney, some crew members are dedicating some of their liberty hours to helping the local community by volunteering at Sydney’s Children’s Hospital at Westmead, where they plan on spending a portion of their liberty to experience the chance to entertain the residents and bring a smile to young faces.

“Participating in community relations projects allows Sailors and Marines the chance to see the host country’s culture firsthand,” said Tortuga’s Community Service Director, Chief Boatswain’s Mate (SW/AW) Earnest C. Pippen.

According to Pippen, there will be a total of 26 Sailors and 15 Marines who will take part in the community relations project in Sydney.

Sydney is home to the world-famous Sydney Opera House, which offers Sailors a chance to do something they would not normally get to do.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to reenlist at the Opera House,” said Fire Controlman 2nd Class (SW) Sumi McLennan. “It will be a memory I will cherish forever in my naval career.”

“It is a blessing and an honor to be able to visit a port such as Sydney,” said Lewis. “Many people go their entire careers never having the opportunity to experience this country.”

Tortuga is a dock landing ship serving under Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 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.

For more information on CTF 76, visit www.ctf76.navy.mil.

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

America Supports You: San Diego Padres Salute Military

SAN DIEGO, July 6, 2007 – In a tribute to the military and Independence Day, Major League Baseball’s San Diego Padres donned “military uniforms” and featured members of the armed services during their game at Petco Park here, July 4, 2007.


By Lance Cpl. Nathaniel Sapp, USMC
American Forces Press Service

Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathaniel Leoncia, a corpsman with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, throws a ceremonial pre-game pitch as part of the San Diego Padres’ salute to the military at Petco Park, July 4, 2007. Photo by Lance Cpl. Nathaniel Sapp, USMC
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Sporting desert-camouflage-style uniform shirts, the Padres took on the Florida Marlins. Before the game began, the Padres gave a salute to the military in their opening ceremony in honor of Independence Day.

While including servicemembers in the pre-game festivities is a nice gesture, the Padres have taken it a step further.

Before the game began, they announced a partnership with America Supports You, a Defense Department program that helps American individuals, organizations and companies show their support for U.S. men and women serving in the military.

Over the past 12 years, the Padres have added several military support programs to their growing list of philanthropic gestures. The franchise is the only one within professional sports with a dedicated military marketing department.

“We are honored to join the America Supports You team,” said Padres’ Chief Executive Officer Sandy Alderson. “Located in the city with the largest concentration of military in the country, we understand and have great respect for what our dedicated men and women in uniform do for our country – day in and day out.”

Partnering with the Defense Department provides the team the opportunity to reach beyond the San Diego area to the military community around the world, said Alderson, a former Marine.

“Over the years, the Padres have done so much in support of our troops and their families that they’ve earned the title of ‘Team of the Military,’” said Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for internal communication and public liaison. “Now as the newest member of the America Supports You program, we’re looking forward to working side-by-side with the Padres and the people of San Diego to ensure that our troops know they will always have the support of our nation.”

Fans who attended the game, which was broadcast around the globe on the Armed Forces Radio Network, were also given the opportunity to send a group "text message" to U.S. Forces stationed around the world.

Role players bearing the American flag and dressed in Revolutionary War uniforms stood in a line behind the pitcher’s mound as Navy Petty Officer 1st Class J.J. Gentry, an explosive ordnance disposal technician, sang the national anthem.

"I tried not to talk beforehand so my voice would be perfect," Gentry said. "It was a good feeling being in front of all these people."

Gentry, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran who was dressed in uniform, said the day had more significance than just singing in front of a large group. "I love this great nation, I love being able to serve in my military," he said. "It means a lot to me."

After Gentry completed the Star-Spangled Banner, two pitches were thrown before the game officially began.

Marine Lance Cpl. Josh McAlvey, a 22-year-old military policeman, tossed out the first ceremonial pitch. McAlvey's wife entered him in a contest on a radio station, and he was ultimately selected to do the honors. "It's a buzz to be here on the field," said McAlvey, a Lake Chelan, Wash., native. "I really can't believe it."

McAlvey, also an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, smiled when he was asked what the Fourth of July meant to him. He described the significance of the day as the "reason behind why we fight."

A third war veteran also took part in the opening ceremony. Throwing out a pitch before the game was Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathaniel Leoncia, a 25-year-old hospital corpsman from Temecula, Calif.

Navy corpsmen serve side-by-side with Marines, usually one per platoon, and act as emergency medics to give on-the-scene treatment when a servicemember is wounded. While serving in Iraq with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Leoncia was struck by the blast of an improvised explosive device.

Walking off the field to a stadium full of cheering fans, Leoncia was all smiles as he rejoined his family.

Later on in the game, between innings, Gentry took the field for an encore performance. As "God Bless America" resonated through the stadium, fans were on their feet, singing along and holding small American flags.

It was clear that there is still a patriotic feel about baseball, "America's pastime."

"This is the day to celebrate," said Dan Outcalt, a salesman from San Diego. "I mean, there is nothing better than a baseball game on the Fourth of July."

The desert-cammie jerseys must have been lucky for the Padres; they beat the Marlins 1-0.

VMU-2 ScanEagle birds-eye view stops illegal oil siphoning

AL ASAD, Iraq (July 6, 2007) -- In the Marine Corps reconnaissance is an important part of any mission, knowing the enemy and the situation before making a move is essential. Sometimes that reconnaissance is also used to stop illegal activities.


July 6, 2007; Submitted on: 07/06/2007 07:16:55 AM ; Story ID#: 20077671655
By Sgt. Anthony Guas, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (FWD)

Recently the Marines of Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 2 observed an oil tanker near a remote northern highway siphoning oil from a pipeline.

“ScanEagle 1 was tasked to do a route scan by 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, when they observed a lone oil tanker siphoning from the pipeline,” said Maj. Keith M. Chirico, VMU-2 ScanEagle officer-in-charge. “Their initial observation and subsequent surveillance was the catalyst for finding 11 total tankers and indirectly highlighting the smuggling operations to all other units in the area of operations.”

After noticing the illegal activity, VMU contacted 1st Bn., 4th Marines and were directed to continue surveillance of the tanker.

“Following them later lead us to a rendezvous point with 10 more oil tankers,” said 1st Lt. Thomas Culberson, the mission commander/officer-in-charge for VMU-2 Det B located in Al Qaim. “Maj Chirico’s team was in the air to our North and began to gain awareness on the situation. The 11 tankers proceeded west toward the Syrian border and began to break up into two groups. We continued observation of the lead group of seven tankers, while Maj. Chirico’s team established visual of the trail group four remaining tankers.”

VMU lead the Marines on the ground to the vehicles, which were captured and taken into custody, preventing the suspects from selling the oil on the black market.

“We think it was extremely important to stop the vehicles,” said Culberson. “Oil has been smuggled out of Iraq, and sold on the black market in neighboring countries. It was important to keep that oil in the country to be used by the Iraqi people and out of the hands of individuals that use the profits from black market sales to fund the effort against us.
By making that stop, we hope that it forces them to alter their plans and think twice about the decisions they make.”

The VMU Marines believe that by spotting and assisting the Marines on the ground, they showcased the advantages in having the ScanEagle, in addition to being an important factor in deterring criminal actions in the Al Anbar province.

“I think this 'significant find' highlights the enormous amount of illegal activity that goes on in Iraq, and certainly validates the importance of maintaining responsive Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in direct support of ground forces as they battle the insurgency,” said Chirico. “Stopping these illegal oil shipments from reaching the black market immediately affects the insurgent's ability to fund their hostile activities.”

Most important the VMU Marines believe that by stopping the oil siphoning, they are directly affecting the establishment of the Iraqi government and economy.

“Preventing the stolen oil from being sold on the local black market or leaving the country puts the valuable resources back in the hands of law-abiding Iraqis, holding their costs down and minimizing the burden of rationing scarce petroleum products,” said Chirico. “It is always very rewarding being part of the solution. Being able to support ground operations as a combat multiplier with persistent real-time video surveillance is very effective and frees up the ground forces to focus on security and assisting the Iraqi people as they rebuild.”

At the end of the day, the VMU Marines were happy to safely and proficiently help the Marines on the ground.

“We are pleased with the way everything transpired,” said Culberson. “The information we provided allowed the command to devise a plan that ended without loss of life and the recovery of a valuable resource that could’ve wound up on the black market. It was a great team effort and we were glad to be a part of it.”

Possible cell phone fee waiver pleases vet

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Jul 6, 2007 15:16:38 EDT

A recently discharged Army sergeant praises a Senate committee plan to waive cell phone cancellation fees for deployed service members, saying he could have avoided a lot of time and trouble if the policy had been in effect during his deployment to Iraq.

To continue reading:


July 4, 2007

Essex Stops in Townsville

TOWNSVILLE, Australia (NNS) -- USS Essex (LHD 2), commanded by Capt. Brian T. Donegan, arrived in Townsville, July 4 for a liberty port visit after the successful completion of Talisman Saber 2007.


Story Number: NNS070704-04
Release Date: 7/4/2007 5:13:00 PM
From USS Essex Public Affairs

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

“Talisman Saber was a fantastic readiness and team building experience," said Donegan. "Australian and U.S. forces integrated seamlessly at every level from the highest command echelon to the deckplate and in every area of maritime operations."

More than 20,000 U.S. and 12,000 Australian personnel participated in the exercise and each branch of the military trained together to enhance their combined and joint warfighting skills.

While in Townsville, Essex Sailors will continue building bonds between the United States and Australia by performing community relation projects at the Townsville Foodbank and North Queensland Military Museum.

”One of the ways we can express our friendship with the Australian people is by going out into the local community and volunteering some of our free time to lend a hand. It’s what friends do,” said Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Sweeney, Essex chaplain. “The Sailors and Marines really wanted to participate in these projects, so much so that we had to turn people away because we had more volunteers than we could handle.”

Sailors are scheduled to assist with packing and distributing food to various agencies and will have the opportunity to meet and interact with the organizations, volunteers and Foodbank clients.

Essex Sailors will assist the North Queensland Military Museum with the restoration and conservation of the museum by making frames for the museum's photographs.

The Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) team on board Essex offered tour tickets prior to the ship’s arrival, including a whitewater rafting trip and a trip to the Billabong Sanctuary. Sailors are also planning to attend a professional rugby game while visiting Townsville.

The port visit will provide Essex Sailors an opportunity to enjoy liberty in a unique city that is a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.

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/.

3/1 Marines treated to BBQ on Fourth

NEAR KARMAH, Iraq (July 4, 2007) -- Moon-dust clouds abounding, Marines from Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, gathered today in the Chuck Norris Café here for a special holiday meal.


July 4, 2007; Submitted on: 07/05/2007 06:47:34 AM ; Story ID#: 20077564734
By Sgt. Andy Hurt, 13th MEU

Personnel from all elements of the battalion, including sniper team attachments, Light Armored Reconnaissance, tanks platoon and line companies India, Kilo and Lima, were treated to fresh grilled meat and cold soda – a break from the usual “T-Rat” dinners.

As the Marines feasted mid-afternoon, rumors circulated the dining area that Chuck Norris himself slaughtered the beef and pork for consumption. The meal gave a good break for Marines conducting 24- hour operations in Al Anbar province.

As they joked, Marines also took time to reflect on the significance of celebrating Independence Day in a combat zone.

“I think this is the unit’s way of saying ‘thanks,’” said Lance Cpl. Jesse Colon-Lopez, a native of Canovanas, Puerto Rico. The reconnaissance scout said that while he may celebrate the holiday with his family in the U.S., being deployed gave him a new perspective.

“(The holiday) would really mean a lot to me back home … but out here, if we didn’t have this meal, it would be just another work day,” he said. Stuffing a huge chunk of steak into his mouth, he added, “this is the best steak I’ve ever had though.”

Marines responsible for serving the meal felt equally as important as the recipients. The meat was delivered by tactical convoy during midnight hours, food service Marines had precious little time to season and thaw nearly 2,000 steaks.

“Whew, we spent the whole night setting his up,” said Staff Sgt. Julio Gonzalez, 3/1 mess chief. “It took a lot of coordination.”

Gonzalez and his crew maintain the heavy responsibility of feeding the battalion while deployed, as opposed to units stationed at larger bases with permanent mess facilities and contractor staffs. It’s tough work day-to-day, and for the celebration, the battalion called in some reinforcements.

“We’ve got the battalion (staff noncommissioned officers) out here serving the troops,” he said. Why? “It’s a Staff NCO thing.”

The extra help, for whatever reason, added depth to the combat celebration.
“It’s a Fourth of July celebration with our ‘brothers in arms,’” he said.

Gonzalez avoided commenting on the behind-the-scenes effort of Chuck Norris.

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

July 3, 2007

Hometown Hero: Huffman petty officer now in battle for life

After surviving a suicide bomb attack in Iraq, ANTHONY THOMPSON and his family find victories in the small stuff
Pregnant wife waits by bedside, prays for recovery


July 3, 2007, 5:29PM

Chronicle Correspondent

ON her first wedding anniversary June 17, Humble native Ivonne Thompson told her husband Anthony how proud she is to be his wife and how proud she is of him.

But she's not sure he heard, as he lies in a Bethesda hospital bed deep in a coma.

"I am proud of him, and everything that he does and has done, and I know he will do in the future," said Ivonne, 29. "Every time he opens his eyes or has a good cough, the littlest thing, I tell him I'm proud of him."

Serious head, back injuries
Anthony, a 25-year-old Navy corpsman petty officer who graduated from Hargrave High School in Huffman, suffered severe head and back injuries last April in Fallujah, Iraq.

It was his second tour of duty, but this time he and his squad were hit when a suicide driver blew up a truck right underneath the bridge on which Anthony was standing.

Ivonne said eight men were on that bridge, and although nobody died, their injuries ranged from punctured lungs to limb amputations.

"I was in Twenty-nine Palms (California) teaching high school Spanish when I got the call," Ivonne said. "A Navy officer said, 'Mrs. Thompson, I have some information about your husband. Are you sitting down?' I mean, my heart was just in my throat. He said 'I need you to calm down. Your husband is still alive.' "

Ivonne said the officer read a verbatim report listing her husband's injuries, and told her that he was being transported to an intensive care facility in Germany.

Ivonne caught a flight to Germany as soon as she could.

"When I first saw him ... I started sobbing," Ivonne said. "But what amazes me the most is, it still looked like him. It looked like Anthony."

Ivonne was not allowed to touch her husband without going through an intensive gowning up ritual.

But the day he was being prepared to fly back to the United States, she got to feel his skin for the first time in months.

"I was starting to gown up, and the flight doctor said ... You don't need to put that on. Just come in here'," Ivonne said. "So I got to hold his hand for the first time without a glove on."

Now back in Maryland, Anthony's recovery continues to be a waiting game.

"He suffered a head injury, which they compared to shaken baby syndrome," Ivonne said. "He suffered multiple spots of bruising in his brain, and it takes a long time to heal those bruises."

Ivonne prays he will recover in time for the birth of their first baby, a boy due Sept. 12.

"Anthony had already picked out the name before he left," Ivonne said. "He wants a 'mini him,' and so it's going to be Anthony. Anthony Cavett Jr."

Ivonne admits she is sometimes "mad as hell" this happened to her husband, but takes solace in the fact Anthony would tell her to "stop freaking out and just deal with it."

Patriotic to the core
His mother, Humble resident Sheila Rooney, said that's because her boy is patriotic to the core.

"This wouldn't change his patriotism," Rooney said. "He knew what he was getting into. Of course, I wanted him to go on a boat and be a corpsman in a hospital setting. But he wanted to be with the Marines. He said 'Mom, they need me out there with them in battle.' "

Iwo Jima search latest in U.S. effort to account for all MIAs

IWO JIMA, Japan (AP) -- Major Sean Stinchon stands at the base of Hill 362A and scans a map drawn up by Navy Seabees in 1948 that is deeply creased and covered in reddish brown dirt. The map shows a labyrinth of caves and tunnels that runs through the brush-covered hill like the cross-section of an ant colony.


Tue July 3, 2007

Save for the buzzing of mosquitoes, all is quiet. Stinchon can see all the way to the pristine black-sand beach and the Pacific. It's a breathtaking scene.

But Stinchon, of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command at Hickam Air Force Base on Hawaii, is focused on finding a man named Sgt. William H. Genaust, killed 62 years ago.

Over the past two years, he has traveled through Europe and Asia looking for the remains of America's fallen troops. More than 78,000 are still missing from World War II alone. Another 8,100 are MIA from the Korean conflict, and 1,750 from Vietnam.

In 1945, Hill 362A was a kill zone.

The 21,200 Japanese defenders, deeply dug in with weapons and supplies, faced a desperate situation: 100,000 Americans who were storming Japanese soil for the first time. They watched a huge flotilla of U.S. Navy ships surround their island. Then came the bombings and heavy artillery fire.

Then the Marines.

Within days, an American flag was flying atop the highest point on the tiny, pork-chop shaped island -- Mount Suribachi, a sulfur-belching volcano on Iwo Jima's southern tip. But it took 31 days before the U.S., on March 26, 1945, declared the island secure. Some 6,821 Americans were killed; only 1,033 Japanese survived. For the U.S., it was the fiercest battle of the war -- none had generated a higher percentage of casualties.

It was a turning point.

On February 23, 1945, AP photographer Joe Rosenthal hiked up to the top of Suribachi and shot the flag-raising -- the second one that day. His photo, which won him the Pulitzer Prize, helped rally the weary nation behind the final push to defeat Japan, and continues to serve as the single most important icon of the valor of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Genaust, a Marine combat photographer, was also there. After escorting the unarmed Rosenthal up the volcano, he stood next to Rosenthal and filmed the moment with a movie camera.

But he didn't live to see the impact of his own footage.

Nine days later, Genaust was on Hill 362A helping his unit secure a cave. They needed a flashlight to see inside, and Genaust volunteered to use his. But as he entered the cave, he was riddled with machine-gun fire and died on the spot. The entrance to the cave was sealed -- possibly by a bulldozer.

Genaust's body, with those of 280 U.S. ground troops who fought on Iwo Jima, was never found.

Stinchon was on Hill 362A to change that.

In a 10-day expedition, Stinchon and his seven-member team -- the first U.S.-led search on Iwo Jima in nearly 60 years -- were looking for what wasn't on his map: caves and tunnels that were closed and sealed, then missed when U.S. searchers combed the island for American dead.

"We need to find places that haven't already been searched," he said.

Iwo Jima, inhabited today by about 400 Japanese soldiers, is craggy, volcanic terrain. Its interior is thick with thorny foliage. Shrapnel still litters the ground, and unexploded shells remain a major hazard.

"You couldn't move out there without the use of a machete," Stinchon said. "It was very thick, a lot of tall cactus plants."

Stinchon and his team hacked their way up the side of the hill and found two potential locations.

Both could easily have been missed.

One appeared to be a small crack, just big enough for a dog to get into, behind rocky debris. The team had to dig through several feet (a couple of meters) of dirt to reveal the entrance to the other.

To the experts, there was one big giveaway -- heat.

"You can kind of tell when you are coming up to a cave or a cave entrance because you can feel the heat coming out and you can smell the sulfur fumes," Stinchon said.

He said the team couldn't get into either to do an extensive investigation for fear of a cave-in, but he said members will take the information they found back to headquarters and recommend that a follow-up team be sent in with heavy equipment to excavate.

"We'll continue to search," he said. "At this time, we have a good start."

Back in Hawaii, JPAC officials say they will analyze the results of the investigation and decide whether a further search, and possibly a full recovery team, is warranted.

Following the motto "Until They are Home," JPAC, which was created in 2003, identifies about six MIAs each month -- some 1,300 so far. The command, which also runs permanent branches in Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, has at any given time about 1,000 active cases.

"It's such an incredible mission," said Lt. Col. Mark Brown, the JPAC spokesman. "There's a lot of families who have been waiting a long time."

Stinchon's team was fairly typical.

Once a promising area is pinpointed, a preliminary investigation is conducted by a team that generally includes linguists, medics, forensic anthropologists and ordnance specialists.

Though it boasts the world's largest forensic anthropology laboratory, JPAC's staff of about 425 people is stretched to the limit and often relies on outside tips -- from family members, friends or amateur historians.

"No lead is too small," Brown said. "We do not turn down a lead."

In Genaust's case, information provided by businessman Bob Bolus of Scranton, Pennsylvania, was key to getting the team to Iwo Jima. Bolus saw an article in Parade magazine two years ago about Genaust, and spent thousands of dollars of his own money to track down leads and even visit the island with his own team of private experts.

Brown said JPAC is particularly interested in obtaining "family reference samples," mitochondrial DNA from the relatives of MIAs. Typically the samples are obtained by swabbing the inside of the cheek, and can be vital in cracking an otherwise impossible identification.

"There are lots of leads we need, people we need to find," he said. "If there aren't dog tags or artifacts, if it's impossible to do dental identification, our last resort is family reference samples."

The forensics experts have DNA from a niece of Genaust.

Japan's government and military helped with the search on Iwo Jima, which last month was officially renamed Iwo To -- the island's name before the war.

Japan sent its first search parties to the island in 1952 and others have followed every year since Iwo Jima was returned to Japanese control in 1968. They have recovered 8,595 sets of remains -- but, to date, no Americans.

JPAC remains determined.

"We want them all," said Hugh Tuller, a civilian anthropologist with the Iwo Jima search team. "We want to find them all."

Talisman Saber 2007 comes to a close

ROCKHAMPTON, Australia - Tens of thousands of U.S. and Australian forces concluded the largest joint war fighting exercise in the Pacific this year July 3 with successes all around.


By Lt. Penny Cockerell, U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs
posted: July 3, 2007

Exercise Talisman Saber 2007 combined troops from all branches of service in both countries. The exercise, which ran from June 10 to July 3, is also the first in Australia to link several training areas into the one scenario using “virtual” training via the Internet – an initiative known as the Joint/Combined Training Capability.

Talisman Saber was designed to give military forces from both countries the chance to train together and enhance their combined and joint war fighting skills to prepare for the next military or humanitarian crises.

“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 war-fighting proficiency needed to combat the global war on terror,” said 7th Fleet Commander, Vice Adm. Doug Crowder, whose flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) pulled into Sydney prior to the field training segment.

During two weeks of field training, fictitious “red” and “blue” forces carried out scenarios on the shores of Shoalwater Bay and in the training grounds of Townsville and Rockhampton.

Support came from U.S. ships in the 7th Fleet battle group and Royal Australian Navy, with some 20 ships overall. At sea, the two countries exchanged personnel on ships and practiced ship-to-ship logistics, transport and refuelings at sea, also known as “force integration training.”

“I am most pleased with the deckplate and ground level bilateral training and relations that are taking place. I don’t really see us working as two forces, but one integrated force,” said Royal Australian Navy Commodore Peter G. Lockwood, the Combined Force Maritime Component Command of the exercise.

Air operations figured into the training, with some 30 Australian and U.S. aircraft, including F/A-18 Hornets, C-130H Hercules and B-707 fuel tankers.

Overall, 20,000 U.S. and 7,500 Australian troops put months of planning to the test, despite steady rains that created ankle-deep mud and hindered some flight operations. Still, the obstacles kept troops driven and provided built-in training that comes with the unexpected.

“It provided many challenges such as communications, lines of communication, moving troops from point A to point B and the various changes in the weather situation. It was very challenging for the blue forces and red forces to react to the various tactical situations,” said U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. John M. Croley, commander of Marine Corps Forces South.

Shoalwater Bay served as the primary training ground for amphibious landings and force-on-force fighting. Precautions were taken to protect this natural resource, which is the size of Belgium. Shoalwater Bay’s varying terrain, amphibious operating area, and several airfields made it ideal for the exercise.

“This has been one of the finest training complexes that I’ve worked in,” Croley said.

Across the country in Canberra, home to Australia’s single service chiefs and chief of defence force, a joint team from the cryptologic technician network field fought cyber battle scenarios on computer screens – a first for any joint/combined military exercise.

“We worked through all types of intrusions, from simple viruses to stealthier root level compromises. If the team felt uncomfortable with the scenario, we would stop and rerun the intrusion until they were satisfied,” said Master Chief Cryptologic Technician (Networks) (SW/AW) Noah Smith.

U.S. troops also took time to visit hospitals, senior centers and schools in local communities. Besides good will, the exercise provided millions of dollars to local economies for everything from food to equipment to fuel.
First held in 2005, Talisman Saber merges the previous exercises of Tandem Thrust and Crocodile into one biennial, joint, combined exercise between U.S. and Australian forces.

Spirit honors go to Marines with toys

Ten-year supporter Jerry Turner hails it as "one of the most amazing nonprofit organizations in existence." More than 10,000 children in the Tennessee Valley know it as Santa Claus every Dec. 25.


By Emily Peck

It's Toys for Tots. The men behind it are the Marines of Battery K in Huntsville, and for the past 20 years, they have worked hard to make sure disadvantaged children enjoy Christmas.

"When the families come in and you see the tears in their eyes and they tell you their kids are going to have Christmas, sometimes you have to turn and wipe away a tear of your own. It's beautiful," said local Toys for Tots coordinator Sgt. Ronald W. Williams II.

Battery K will receive the H.J. Heimlich Humanitarian Award on Wednesday during this year's Spirit of America Festival at Point Mallard Park.

The award is reserved for those who have saved or attempted to save a life, or who have contributed to the betterment of mankind.

Battery K is a part of the Marine Corps' national program Toys for Tots.

"The first time I saw a family receive Christmas as part of Toys for Tots, it was incredible," says Turner, who works to involve local businesses with the program. "The Marines really care about the kids."

Every November and December, these troops sacrifice their weekends to bagging and sorting toys.

In addition to the day job of being a Marine, they often work from 5 a.m. to midnight Saturday and Sunday.

For Williams, the process sometimes "takes away everything else."

As coordinator, Williams not only spends weekends bagging toys, but also receives phone calls in the wee hours of morning and organizes fundraising events.

He also pastors New Beginning Revivals Center in Madison and Miracle Tabernacle in Florida.

Williams is no stranger to a life of service.

"My dad was always serving the community and was never at home," said Williams, whose father was one of the first blacks to serve on a county commission in Florida.

"I'm just a community service type of person," he said.

Since 1947

It was in this sense of service that Maj. Bill Hendricks began Toys for Tots in 1947. Hendricks' wife, Diane, handcrafted a Raggedy Anne doll and asked her husband to give it to a needy child at Christmas.

When Hendricks could find no organization that distributed toys, he decided to create one. Along with a group of Marine reservists in Los Angeles, Hendricks collected and delivered 5,000 toys to disadvantaged children.

The project was so successful that the Marine Corps adopted Toys for Tots and took it nationwide. It has been in operation for the past 59 years.

Toys for Tots means more than just a toy at Christmas. The hope that the charity inspires can change lives.

Williams said he once met a Marine whose success was largely a product of Toys for Tots.

"His life at home was tough. He said the only highlight of his year was going to the Marines and receiving a toy."

Today that Marine is a gunnery sergeant with a wife and children.

This sense of accomplishment is what the program hopes to foster, said Williams.

The operation not only strives to help families in need, but also inspires a spirit of giving in the community. The response from the Tennessee Valley is incredible, said Williams.

"From big businesses to Girl Scout troops, you name it, they participate. Some years, you don't know where the help is going to come from, but it always comes."

Toys for Tots even inspires children to share in the "gift of giving," Williams said. Some children save their allowance money all year for the purpose of giving another child a Christmas.

For Williams, this kind of selflessness is exactly what being a Marine is all about.

"What these kids do for each other represents one of the great traditions of the Marine Corps — a man laying down his life for his friend," he said.

In William's eyes, this spirit of giving makes the Tennessee Valley an extraordinary community.

"I just want to say thank you for all the support and the support yet to come and to hail this community. The giving is so great and so needed every year," he said.

U.S. throws birthday party, over 300 million people invited

MARINE CORPS BASE, CAMP H M SMITH, Hawaii (July 3, 2007) --
There are many holidays throughout the year celebrating the individual beliefs, heritage and traditions of the people of the United States.


July 3, 2007; Submitted on: 07/03/2007 07:01:50 PM ; Story ID#: 20077319150
By Cpl. R. Drew Hendricks, Marine Forces Pacific

However, there is one holiday on the calendar that celebrates the U.S. in its entirety.

For every citizen of the U.S., Independence Day is a day of remembrance, not just for the inception of one document or even one singular event, but for every moment in this country’s young history.

The Fourth of July is a chance to celebrate the shared memories and experiences of 231 years of growth, from 13 independent colonies to 50 unified states.

While the meaning behind the date may be concrete, the date itself, however iconic it may be, is considered by many to be a bit arbitrary.

Before July 4, 1776 many New Englanders were fighting the British, some as early as April 1775. It wasn’t even until June 4, 1776 that the Continental Congress secretly made the first motion for independence. Nearly a month later on July 2, 1776 the congress voted unanimously for independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain.

What made the fourth so special was the fact that the twelve colonies voted on, adopted and released a copy of the Declaration of Independence signed by only one member of the Continental Congress, John Hancock, who was the congress president at the time.

According to historians, this is why the fourth was selected as the official birth date of the U.S.

The first, yet unofficial, celebration of Independence Day was held July 8, 1776 by the people of Philadelphia with bonfires and public readings of the declaration.

The first official celebration took place July 4, 1777, again in Philadelphia. This time the celebration was much more elaborate with a 13-gun-salute, an official feast for the Continental Congress, parades, parties, speeches and festive red, white and blue decorations adorning houses and ships.

General George Washington celebrated the holiday by giving his soldiers a double ration of rum and ordering artillery salutes.

The Fourth of July, which became known as Independence Day in 1791, would continue to be celebrated throughout the years even though it was not made an official unpaid federal holiday until 1870. It became a paid holiday in 1941.

Decades later the meaning of the celebration remains unchanged. While the methods of celebration vary from region-to-region and person-to-person there are a few standards.

The most recognizable is fireworks. Fireworks shows are held in nearly every state and are said to be a symbol of the United State’s military struggle over the British during the Revolutionary War.

The second most recognizable festivity is the “All American” barbecue and picnic. Of course, the foods eaten at these events will vary from table to table, showcasing another aspect unique to America, its diversity.

This Independence Day, the citizens of the U.S. will continue the 231-year-old tradition of celebrating the birth of their country.

Whether their families have a history dating back to the very beginning, or they achieved their citizenship on July 3, 2007, they are invited to this country’s birthday party.

July 1, 2007

A Fighting Chance

(CBS) This segment was originally broadcast on Oct. 29, 2006. It was updated on June 28, 2007.

Twenty-first century science and old fashioned guts are revolutionizing combat medicine for our troops. In Iraq, the medical units made famous by "MASH" have been retired in favor of new combat hospitals set up in the midst of the action.

Click on the above link for a video associated with the article for as long as it's available.

Scott Pelley On Combat Medicine And The Battle To Save Lives
July 1, 2007

One thing that hasn't changed though is the courage of the medics, doctors and nurses who are saving lives like never before. Last year, 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley went to see the action up-close. The team came across two wounded Americans, Marine Corporals Kenny Lyon and Brad Fulks.

You wouldn't have expected either to have survived what happened to them. Their families agreed to let 60 Minutes tell the story of how today's combat medicine gave both men a fighting chance.


Kenny Lyon, from Maryland, was one gifted mechanic. He was outside, trying to fix his broken down armored vehicle, when a mortar exploded. By the time he reached the hospital, half his blood was gone already.

His pressure was critically low and his life was slipping away though three lacerated arteries and too many wounds to count.

Shrapnel had torn into his head, neck, both legs, and both arms. His left foot was turning white because there was no circulation.

"It’s a battle, y’know. Sometimes people are fighting to die on the table desperately," says Paulette Schank, a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve. Back in the states, she’s a nurse-anesthetist in a hospital near Philadelphia.

"Did you say that some people come in fighting to die?" Pelley asks Schank.

"Meaning their body is going further and further down the wrong direction," she explains. "They need us to be able to resuscitate them so we can stop that negative spiral downward so that we go back to the spiral of life."

Schank supervised the operating rooms of the Air Force theater hospital. This is the war’s busiest trauma center, an encampment of 32 tents on the Balad Air Base north of Baghdad.

The 332nd Expeditionary Group has 400 staff and more than 300 trauma patients a month. To be close to the patients, the hospital is close to the battle. In the background, the sound of incoming helicopters with wounded soldiers onboard beats against the tent canvas like an alarm.

Asked whether she feels a sense of dread about what she is going to face once the helicopter lands, Schank says, "I think of it more — it’s the next challenge that’s coming though the door. To ward off that ugly death man who wants to take away your person and it's your job to make sure he’s not successful today."

The day Kenny Lyon was wounded another Marine, Brad Fulks, was hit by a roadside bomb. Fulks is from West Virginia, a two-time state boxing champion suddenly in the fight of his life the day before his 23rd birthday.

Cpl. Fulks made it to the Army’s 10th combat support hospital in Baghdad.

Lieutenant Colonel Warren Dorlac flew in with a team just for Fulks. Dr. Dorlac is chief of trauma at the giant American Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany. He’s one of the military’s top doctors. He came himself because of Fulks’ condition. Fulks lost a lung, his kidneys are failing, and half is body is burned.

"I think his overall prognosis, just from his burn alone, is actually very good," Dorlac says, even though Fulks was burned extensively. "The problem with this patient is that he has a number of other severe injuries—the biggest being the problem with his one lung."

As sick as Cpl. Fulks is, Dorlac is moving him to Germany. The life support gear the medical staff uses is so advanced, some of it isn’t available in the United States yet. And at the same time Fulks is flying to Germany, special medical teams from Texas and Maryland are flying to Germany to meet him.

"At what point do you say to yourself, ‘We can’t save this life’?" Pelley asks Dr. Dorlac.

"You know, we don’t make that decision. We go full court press on everybody," he explains.

That full court press starts with the quick response of MedEvac helicopters, in essence flying emergency rooms. Staff Sergeant Danny Stevenson is a flight medic with the Army’s 57th Medical Evacuation Company. Back on September 11th, 2001, he was a staff medic at the Pentagon, treating the wounded. After 9/11, he asked the Army to send him overseas.

"They called you, you don't have back up. You are the back up. So if you can't get the job done nobody else can. It’s a lot of pressure. And I can handle that kind of pressure," Stevenson says.

Helicopter units like this are spread out all over Iraq so that no injured man or woman is more than 20 or 25 minutes from their reach. It’s all about what the doctors call the "golden hour," that first hour after injury, when a Marine or a soldier can easily bleed to death. Speed is everything.

The MedEvac helicopters are sometimes fired on. And there’s always the possibility of ambush on the ground.

Asked if he ever gets scared, Stevenson says, "I don’t get scared."

"No, come on now. Everybody gets scared," Pelley says.

"I mean some stuff freaks me out sometimes. But I mean if you freak out on the scene, you’re just going to lose control of it. And if you lose control of it, you’re gonna die," he says.

"No one dies on the back of my helicopter. I'll do CPR all the way until the end. They die in the hospital. And that's where it stays," Stevenson says.

He vows to keep the injured alive. "I breathe for 'em, I beat for 'em, I do everything I can for 'em."

Back in the hospital, Kenny Lyon, the mechanic from Maryland who had lost so much blood, had moved into the operating room.

Five surgeons worked from head to toe. They pumped in blood, 10 units, 20 units, 30 units and more. They couldn’t stop the bleeding in his left leg. Nurse Paulette Schank watched the amputation.

"It’s ugly. This is the ugly side of war. But at least they can control the bleeding now. At least he has a better chance of survival," she says.

It is a better chance but Lyon ran through all the blood they had. A call went out for donors.

Schank was first in line. "Our job is to resuscitate to allow the surgeons time to stop the bleeding. And you try but it’s so hard. And sometimes you’re not successful and it hurts. You feel like you let that soldier down, you know. The wicked death spiral won in that event and you fought so hard, we fight so hard against him winning and sometimes he wins," she says.

Maybe it was Schank’s blood that made a difference. But more blood bought more time, and Lyon’s surgery would go on for hours.

That same night, Brad Fulks, the fighter from West Virginia, was loaded onto a C-17 cargo plane, rigged for intensive care, and bound for Germany.

Fulks was improving. "Actually from the time we picked him up at the combat support hospital, slowly along the way he’s been continuously improving," says Dr. Dorlac.

Some patients, sedated, will never know they were on the flight — others can’t seem to leave their memories behind. The setup on these planes is a big innovation. Doctors have even performed surgery onboard. In Vietnam it took about 40 days for the wounded to get to the states. Now it’s as little as three days.

Back in the hospital, Pelley found that nearly half the patients aren’t Americans at all. Many are Iraqi civilians, like a boy named Anas, who was wounded in a bombing, and a teenage girl who came in with a head wound. They took her to the CT scanner and found shrapnel had cut across her brain. There was nothing they could do for her but offer a last touch before dying.

60 Minutes found Anas a few days later. He was doing much better under the care of Dr. Adnan Rabie, an American who grew up in Iraq.

"It is very sad, actually, to see all of these casualties of war. Innocent people. But that's a heavy price this country paying for peace and democracy, I think," Dr. Rabie says.

Asked if he thinks it's worth it, Dr. Rabie says, "I think so."

"Not for – in this generation. Maybe for the next generation," he says.

Brad Fulks, the burned Marine from West Virginia, made it to Germany. Days later, he was well enough to fly to the Army Burn Center in Texas where he was reunited with his family. Dr. Dorlac says by that point, Fulks' care involved a dozen aircraft and maybe a thousand Air Force personnel.

"No one would want to, care to, put a price tag on this, but just to get a sense of the scope, it probably isn’t unreasonable to believe a million dollars was spent on this young man to save his life," Pelley remarks.

"I’d say that’s probably a good conservative number," Dorlac replies.

Still, all the effort wasn’t enough. Eighteen days after he was wounded, Brad Fulks, like many burn patients, lost his life to an infection, leaving behind his parents and two sisters.

For Kenny Lyon, it’s a different story – he got through his surgery. Within five days, he was back in the states. It has been hard and he has been lucky. Lyon was taken to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

He’s working with an artificial leg, and has nerve damage in both arms. Part of his tongue is gone and a wire is holding his jaw together.

"How much do you think you're gonna get back?" Pelley asks.

"I'm gonna get everything back," Lyon says. "That's my goal right now. I'm gonna fight to retain everything I had before."

Asked how it feels to be in his skin right now, Lyon says, "I’m just happy. I love coming here every day and doing my therapy and pushing myself and every day I get stronger and better and faster and I can use my hands more and I’m having fun."

"You’re having fun?" Pelley asks.

"Why not? What else am I going to do? I might as well make the best of my situation. I mean I’m better I’m alive. It’s all down hill from here. It's all gravy."

Kenny Lyon joins nearly 9,000 Americans who have survived severe wounds in Iraq. The military says it’s the best survival rate in history. But Paulette Schank told 60 Minutes it's not the survivors she remembers so much as the patients she has lost. Like a sergeant who died a few months ago — one of those who never quite leaves her.

"You’ve been defeated, you know, you’ve let that person down on the table," Schank tells Pelley. "I still talk to them up there and say 'I need your strength with me today. Sergeant so-and-so, I really need your strength with me.' And I’ll say his name."

Schank says she remembers the names. At that point in the interview, the sound of a helicopter could be heard.

"And I’ll think of my sergeant," Schank adds, preparing for the next patient.

Soldiers, Marines pour their hearts into helping local Iraqi boys

AL TAQADDUM, Iraq (July 1, 2007) -- In the United States things can be relatively simple. If someone is ill, he goes to the doctor. If a person is very ill, then they go to the hospital.


July 1, 2007; Submitted on: 06/30/2007 02:25:19 PM ; Story ID#: 2007630142519
By Cpl. Wayne Edmiston, 2nd Marine Logistics Group

In Iraq, on the other hand, it is not always that simple. Medical care is very expensive and many times the wait to be treated can be weeks long.

While on patrol, soldiers from Company A, 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), stumbled upon two boys who were truly sick, took a stand,
and decided to help them.

One of them has a serious heart condition.

“He has what’s called Tetralogy of Fallot,” said Spc. Eric Rasmussen, a medic with the company and Maple Grove, Minn., native. “It’s pretty much a hole that keeps the heart from receiving oxygenated blood.”

Mohommed Yesier Abdula Essa has been living with the hole in his heart for quite some time.

“Once we decided to help him we contacted a group called the National Iraqi Assistance Center in Baghdad,” said Army 1st Lt. Gordon P. Giswold, a civil affairs officer with the battalion.

“They said they could sponsor these kids to receive surgery.”
Once the ball began to roll, it was a matter of getting the children to Baghdad to receive treatment.

“The (commanding general) made things happen,” said Giswold, a Cold Spring, Minn., native. “Pretty much everyone was trying to make this work.”

Once they arranged for transportation, the company went out and retrieved the sick children and family

They were prepared to be moved to Baghdad to the 28th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad where they would do further testing.

Once the testing is completed, the surgery will be preformed in Jordan, Germany or even possibly the United States, according to Giswold.

One of the little boys was still in shock by the change of atmosphere and meeting many new people. He stared in bewilderment at the surgical compound surrounding him.

“He is really nervous and it’s his first time being around different people and strangers,” explained the boy’s father through an interpreter.

Gunnery Sgt. Michael Getchel, the civil affairs liaison officer for 2nd MLG
(Fwd) handed one of the boys a Superman book bag and said it was a gift from his mother.

Superman may be considered part of the United State’s cultural lexicon. In Iraq, he has become just as large an idol. The cartoon movie is something kids in Iraq enjoy as much as any child in the world.

Up until today, the boy’s father might have thought it would take someone as strong as Superman to help his sick little boy.

“This is like a dream for me,” said the father. “My son is everything to me and this is a really, really happy day.”

Just as happy were the servicemembers able to assist the child in living a happy and healthy life.

“It’s good to see we can actually do something tangible,” said Rasmussen. “When you are involved in a project like this you are truly doing something good.”

By the Grace of God, Still a Marine

My son, Marine Lance Corporal John McClellan is living proof that prayer really does work and that God is still in the miracle working business.

Please note that this is a link to a .pdf file.

by Connie McClellan

While serving as a machine gunner in Afghanistan in 2005, at the age of 19, John was shot twice in the same arm, in the same week. The injuries that he sustained were viewed as miraculously minor. The first, an AK-47 bullet, ricocheted off a rock and imbedded in his rightwrist. Within three days, John was back in the turret. Three days later, he earned his second purple heart when he was shot a second time, again by an enemy AK-47 bullet that penetrated the front of his right arm and exited out the back, and again… didn’t hit, didn’t hurt, anything. Within two weeks, he was back inthe turret again. In the Stars & Stripes publication for Wednesday, October 27, 2006, John’s picture was on the front page with the headline, “Marine Shot Twice, Same Week,Same Arm, Answers to … Lucky.”

On September 11, 2006, John was deployed to Haditha, Iraq. Fifteen days later, on September 26th, while on patrol, he was shot in the head by a sniper. The bullet penetrated just in front of his left ear and exited the back of the lower left side of his head. My husband, Carl, and I re-ceived the “every parent’s worst nightmare” phone call at 12:15 AM CST on September 27th. The phone call revealed that John was in a hospital in Balad, Iraq, where he had just endured five hours of surgery in which bone fragments and brain tissue were removed. We were told, “If he survives the brain swelling, he will never be the same, and will probably be a vegetable.” Immediately after the phone call, I sent an email to my 80 plus email addressees telling them what had happened and leading them in prayer, asking God for the desperately needed miracle for John. That afternoon a candlelight vigil, with 120 plus people was held on our front lawn. Twenty-four hours later, the doctors called back to tell us that John's condition had done "180". Even though he was unconcscious, he was responding favorably to every test given to him.

On September 28th, John was flown to the military hospictal in Landstuhl, Germany and on the 29th, he arrived at the Bethesda National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) in Bethesda, MD. Carl, my stepdaughter, Jan McClellan Bowman and I arrived at the NNMC September 30th. The neurosurgeon at NNMC, Dr. Rocco Armonda, told us 99 out of 100 people with this type of injury do not survive, and that the bullet missed John's carotid artery by a thickness of two sheets of paper. John was in the ICU for seven days after which he was transferred to the 5th floor, surgery floor, where he remained until October 25th.

While at the NNMC, John McClellan was presented his third purple heart by General Michael Hagee, Commandant of the Marine Corps.

On October 25, 2006, John and I were flown to the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa, FL, where John endured three and one-half weeks of intensive physical, occupational and speech therapy. John's left facial nerve was severed, so the left side of his face had no activity, which gave him a very "saggy" appearance. In addtion, the facial nerve controls the closing of the eye-lid, so a gold weight was inserted in his eyelid to assist it in closing. When an EMG was permfored at the VA Hospital in Tampa, the doctor's prognosis for the recovery of the facial nerve was very poor. He indicated that "if the nerve every recovers, it will probably take years".

On November 21, 2006, John and I returned home to Columbia, MO, where we were greeted by Carl and approximately 150 friends, family and well-wishers. The next week, John began occupational, speech and physical therapy at Rusk Rehabilitation Center in Columbia, MO.

Since his return in November, John's face has totally restored, the gold weight has been removed (and added as a charm to John's neckalce) as it is no longer needed. In February, 2006 John had another EMG test at the VA Hospital in Columbia, MO. After the test was concluded the doctor explained that the activity of John's left facial nerve was an "8", and that anything less than "10" is a very poor prognosis. At that point, I looked at the doctor and exclaimed, "I don't really care! Look at him!". By that time, John's face was three-fourths restored.

The miracles that God has done in this situation are many. Follwing is a list of the most dramatic. Each one of these miracles was a major concern at some point. One by one, God answered the prayers of the thousands of people praying for John.

1.) Lived. (His buds in Iraq prayed for him when they put him on the helicopter.)

2.) Can See. (Originally there was a fear that he would be blind.)

3.) Can Hear. (Left ear is deaf, but right ear is perfect.)

4.) Can Talk, (Sometimes brain injuries can cause a problem talking, so this was a serious concern.)

5.) Can Talk with Both Vocal Chords. (For 1 1/2 months, he only had one functional vocal chord, so he had the "Marlon Brando, Godfather" thing going on.)

6.) Can Swallow. (For one day, after removing the breathing tube, he
couldn't swallow.)

7.) No Headaches or Pain of Any Kind. (For two months, this was a problem.)

8.) No Dizziness. (For over a month he was extremely dizzy.)

9.) Laughs a Lot. (It took 1 1/2 months for him to get his "joy" back. Now it's 100% restored...and then some.)

10.) Left Hand and Left Side Work Again. (This was a problem that was 100% restored around February of 2007.)

11.) Can Walk. (He had to totally relearn to walk.)

12.) Not Retarded.

13.) Left Dimple Restored. (His left dimple was lost with the loss of the facial nerve.)

14.) Left Eyebrow Movement Restored. (This was also lost with the loss of the facial nerve.)

15.) Eyelid Closes.

16.) Forehead Wrinkles Restored. (This was lost with the left facial nerve.)

17.) Full Smile. (With the loss of the left facial nerve, his smile was only half.)

18.) Can Read.

19.) Can Write.

20.) No Cranioplasty Needed. (In March, 2007, we returned to NNMC for cranioplasty, but the muscle had grown over the brain sufficiently to protect it, so the surgery was cancelled.)

Here are the only things for which we continue to believe in God:
1.) Short Term Memory Loss.
2.) Deaf in Left Ear.
3.) Balance Not Perfect.
4.) No Seizures. (On 4/6/07, John experienced his first seizure; he is currently on anti-seizure medication and is doing fine.)

LCpl. John McClellan's story is one story of hope, not only for our soldiers, but for every living, human being. I truly, sincerely believe that God is there for us every step of the way, but prayer is critical for inviting God's intervention.