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January 31, 2008

Wounded Warriors Pay Visit to USS Nimitz

Fifteen wounded Marine and Army personnel were welcomed by an enthusiastic round of applause as they exited their plane on the flight deck aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) Jan. 25.


By MC2 Jeremiah Sholtis
USS Nimitz Public Affairs
Thursday, January 31, 2008

They were flown aboard the ship on a C-2 Greyhound along with personnel from Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) who assisted them during their transit to and around the ship.

''I’ve never been on a ship before, and I’ve heard a lot about them,'' said Marine Lance Cpl. Brandon Mendez. ''I’ve seen them on T.V., and I wanted to see it in person.''

Mendez, who was injured by a suicide bomber while on check point in Iraq, sustained an amputation of his left hand and fractures in both feet. He plans on moving back to Orange County, Calif., to attend college for criminal justice after completing his tour of duty.

Their service and sacrifice were greatly appreciated by the crew members aboard Nimitz as was revealed by the number of Sailors and Marines gathered on the flight deck for the opportunity to greet and thank them.

''I’m glad that they’re here so they can see that the U.S. Navy is here for them,'' said Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic (AW) Pero Clark. ''It gives them the opportunity to see what we do as Sailors.''

''I think we take things for granted,'' said Culinary Specialist 1st Class Christopher Lizzio. ''We have a great life out here. I think what the troops do on the ground is unbelievable and I have a great deal of respect for everything they do.''

The invitation to come to Nimitz was extended by Capt. Michael Manazir, Nimitz’ commanding officer, during a recent visit to NMCSD. Cmdr. Chris Bolt, Nimitz’ executive officer, and Command Master Chief (AW⁄SW) Billy Ward, Nimitz’ command master chief, were also present at the visit.

''We went over to the center and got to see you all doing your jobs,'' Manazir said to the wounded warriors. ''I thought it would be pretty neat if I offered you the opportunity to see what we do out here.''

After the gala on the flight deck the troops were escorted into the commanding officer’s in port cabin for refreshments and an official welcome aboard.

''This trip is for you,'' said Manazir. ''We look forward to showing you our ship. I can’t tell you how proud I am of you and what a pleasure it is to have you aboard.''

Before arriving on Nimitz the medical staff made preparations to ensure the troops were adequately prepared to transit the ship.

''We made sure a couple of them were able to go up and down ladders,'' said Capt. Kathy Goldberg, Comprehensive Combat and Complex Casualty Care (C5) director. ''At the C5 facility we actually have a ladder set up so we were able to test them on it before coming on board.''

Assistants provided service members like Army Spc. Joshua Hooker, who lost his left leg from the knee down in an improvised explosive device attack, the ability to overcome the struggles of maneuvering with a prosthetic.

''The Navy offered each of us an assistant to stand in front or behind us in case the ship was moving and we started teetering,'' said Hooker. ''It was nice to have the support.''

Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Odell Barley, a C5 staff member and one of the escorts, had never been on an aircraft carrier and expressed his gratitude for the experience.

''It gives us an opportunity to see another side of the Navy, and not just one perspective,'' said Barley. ''I appreciate the opportunity to come out here with these guys to tour the ship.''

Barley works closely with the troops as the supply petty officer ordering their prosthetics.

''It’s very inspiring to see an injured Sailor, Marine or Soldier come in a week, two weeks out from the battlefield and then two to three weeks later you see them actually walking or progressing through their rehabilitation,'' Barley said. ''It keeps me doing my job and keeps me motivated and appreciating what they do even more.''

The wounded warriors were afforded the chance to witness flight operations and hear a brief delivered by Marine Capt. Jon Curtis in one of the ship’s ready rooms offering a history of the only Marine fighter squadron on Nimitz.

''It’s a real honor to give a presentation and welcome them,'' said Curtis. ''We’re a small part of the Marine Corps that’s placed on aircraft carriers to work with the Navy.''

Jason Elam's Diary from Iraq: Day 1; Broncos kicker visiting U.S. soldiers

WOW, what a flight! After a non-stop from Denver to Frankfurt and then right on to Kuwait, we finally arrived last night and checked into our hotel here in Kuwait City.


Last Edited: Thursday, 31 Jan 2008, 3:11 PM MST
Created: Thursday, 31 Jan 2008, 3:11 PM MST


After a short night, we headed out to Camp Arifjan at the southern end of the country.

As we drove down the main highway, we could still see many of the oil platforms that Saddam Hussein had lit on fire immediately after the liberation of Kuwait during the first Gulf War.

Fortunately, Kuwait has turned things back around, and today the country produces a staggering 2 million barrels of oil per day.

Upon arrival we were briefed by the Deputy Commander of the Camp, and, thanks to Tyndale Publishing, I was able to hand out copies of my book Monday Night Jihad.

We then headed north to Camp Buehring, near the Iraqi border. On the way, we were met by the ever-so-common sandstorm. These gritty blasts can easily cripple the operations side of the bases here in the region.

Then, to make matters worse, we encountered the dreaded camel jam. That’s right – out of the fog of blowing sand came close to 100 camels galloping through the desert.

Our guide told us each camel is worth the equivalent of $30,000 US. That got me thinking a bit. So, if I can’t be found on the gridiron this next season, you may be able to find Jason ‘Camel Breeder’ Elam in the nearest Kuwaiti Bedouin village.

After clearing all the obstacles, we finally arrived at Camp Buehring with just enough time to be briefed by officials before we headed off to the DFAC (Dining Facility – and yes, there is an acronym for everything here).

After lunch we hung out with many of the troops transitioning either into or out of Afghanistan or Iraq. I conveyed my own appreciation and that of so many of you back home who love, support, and pray for these warriors.

From Camp Buehring, we were to head to Camp Virginia but the base was shut down due to a threat. So, we headed to our last base for the day, Camp LSA. We did another “meet-n-greet” with the troops, who were mainly from Oklahoma. They had just arrived earlier this week for a one-year tour. We enjoyed our time with them, but jet lag was quickly catching up to most of us. So, we soon returned to our hotel in order to pack up for our military transport into Iraq tomorrow.

Without a doubt, it’s a completely different world over here. I will continue to blog when able, and will also do my best to be an ambassador of encouragement to all of our troops. Blessings to all.

Lost mail? Send an e-mail to the military

Staff report
Posted : Thursday Jan 31, 2008 12:33:11 EST

The Military Postal Service Agency has launched a new service that allows service members to track down lost and late-arriving packages and mail with an e-mail inquiry.

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January 30, 2008

Young Iraqi Girl Receives Heart Surgery because of Alabama Marines

Montgomery, Ala. (WSFA) -- Brianne Staub will never forget when she first heard the story.


Jan 30, 2008

It was around Christmas. Husband Travis, a Marine reservist from the Lima company in Montgomery, told her the remarkable tale of what a fellow marine from the same outfit had just done.

"They were bringing the girl back to the states," Brianne says.

That little girl is Amina, just 3-years old and born with a major heart defect.

Doctor: "Her heart is clearly on the wrong side of her chest."

Amina is in Vanderbilt Children's Hospital in Nashville, Tennesse waiting for heart surgery; and the man who found it in his heart to help Amina is Major Kevin Jarrard, also a member of the Lima battalion.

Jarrard says, "I think essentially it seemed like the right thing to do. We were in a position to potentially help this girl."

Jarrad and company found Amina with her parents while on patrol near Haditha, Iraq.

In a race against time, he quickly made arrangements to raise money on the web, and he had Amina and her mom flown to the states.

It was all the more reason why Travis Staub played a huge role in Amina's security.

"He was traveling with her for 10 days and they took her back and forth between cities, taking her to the border to meet with another group of guys," says Brianne.

"None of the Iraqis were hostile toward them. They just had to be there just in case."

Before, Brianne wasn't sure what to make of the Iraq people in general.

Now Amina's journey has changed her perception saying, "It definitely opens your eyes to see the Iraqis are not what we think. They are willing for us to help them. It's changed my mind."

As for Amina, there is a possibility she may not survive, a sobering thought for the Lima battalion.

Reporter: Are they prepared for that?

Brianne: "They would be heartbroken but they know that's the risk they took."

While Amina fights for her life, Jarrard and friends fight the terrorists, both looking for victory.

WSFA 12 News found out late Wednesday that Amina will have her surgery on February 13th.

Rght now, she is in stable condition and fighting a bad cold.

Major Jarrard was able to raise $30,000t to fly her to the U.S. and eventually back to her home.

Vanderbilt doctors will perform this operation free of charge.

Marine scout snipers scope out new tactics

UDAIRI RANGE COMPLEX, Kuwait (Jan. 30, 2008) -- Thanks to new sniping tactics picked up by Marine scout snipers in Kuwait, insurgents caught in their scopes are guaranteed to have a bad day.


Jan. 30, 2008; Submitted on: 01/31/2008 09:31:56 AM ; Story ID#: 200813193156
By Cpl. Scott M. Biscuiti, 11th MEU

The Scout Sniper Platoon and Reconnaissance Marines with Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, attended a ten-day training package Jan. 20-30 headed by National Sniper Champion Todd Hodnett who taught the Marines how to improve their lethality with new shooting formulas, shooting positions and techniques.

“Training with Todd Hodnett has taken our capabilities to a level that I didn’t think was possible as a scout sniper,” said Cpl. Ryan Lindner, a scout sniper with Scout Sniper Platoon and Napa Valley, Calif., native. “Todd has really revolutionary tactics about shooting (around, over and within buildings.)”

During the training, the snipers where able to effectively engage targets that were behind buildings and many Marines hit targets at distances that they never attempted before.

One particular technique learned on the ranges was shooting loopholes. This technique makes the shooter virtually invisible from enemy detection by allowing him to shoot through a two-inch hole in a wall while 20 to 30-feet away from the hole.

“I’ve done stuff out here that I’ve never even heard of before,” Cpl. Scott Koppenhafer, a scout sniper with Scout Sniper Platoon, said about the training. “It directly correlates to everything we would do in combat.”

1st Lt. Frank Edwards, Scout Sniper Platoon commander, said the Marines have been using personal digital assistants or PDAs to expand their capabilities.

“PDAs are relatively new to the Marine Corps and very new to our platoon,” said the Olney, Md., native. “It’s a quicker, more efficient way for our guys to do math calculations such as atmospheric pressure, wind speed and target range so they can make their adjustments faster.”

Using the hand-held devices was a new experience for many of the Marines.

“This is the first time I’ve worked with them,” said Koppenhafer, a Mancos, Colo., native. “It used to take a week on the range going through boxes and boxes of ammo to build up data for your rifles. The PDA cancels that out. What used to take a week, now takes an hour.”

In addition to learning advanced formulas and using modern technology to gain the upper hand, the Marines prepared themselves for the unexpected by shooting with different ammo and storing the results in their PDAs.

“If a sniper is in a firefight and has to switch to different ammo, he already has the data in his PDA,” said Edwards.

As time changes, so too do the tactics and technological advances available to snipers. Learning what they are and how to employ them will keep Marine scout snipers at the top of the food chain, said Lindner.

“Taking what Todd has taught us enlarges everything we can do,” said Lindner. “We can engage targets a lot faster, farther and with a lot more accuracy. It will make us that much more of a combat multiplier out on the battlefield.”

January 29, 2008

Marines learn new ways to be ‘non-lethal’

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait(Jan. 29, 2008) -- Riots and civil disturbances don’t just happen out of thin air. The anatomy of a riot is much like that of a Molotov cocktail. Both are created by instigators who add fuel and fire to combustible materials to provoke mayhem. Take one of these elements away and a riot dies.


Submitted by: 11th MEU
Story by: Computed Name: Staff Sgt. Sergio Jimenez
Story Identification #: 2008130234641

How to remove one of these elements to diffuse a riot is one of the biggest lessons Marines and Sailors from G Battery, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, learned during an intensive 54-hour non-lethal weapons training course here.

The 11th MEU, from Camp Pendleton, Calif., is training in Kuwait as part of their scheduled six-month deployment through the Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf region.

“The decision to use force and how much force to use is always a tough one,” said Cpl. William H. Anderson, a fire direction control man from Sonora, Calif. This training has definitely prepared Marines to make the right choice. “It’s by far the best non-lethal weapons training I have ever seen.”

The training was provided by The Densus Group, an American company that uses British Army veterans who have extensive experience in dealing with public order, crowd control and riots gained in tours in Northern Ireland.

“Our aim was to give the Marines realistic training and give them the skills and knowledge to handle all types of disorder up to lethal force,” said Adam Leggat, senior instructor.

The Marines were told to be as physical and aggressive as possible while staying within safety standards. They were more than happy to oblige.

During one exercise, Marines in full-riot gear moved through a gauntlet of stations in which they had to defend themselves against other Marines who were acting as rioters. The rioters hid inside and behind buildings and attacked the Marine or group of Marines who had to repel the attack by employing self-defense techniques they were previously taught.

“We weren’t holding back,” said Sgt. Joshua A. Draveling, section chief, from Milwaukee, Wisc., “A few Marines got some scrapes and bruises, but it was nothing a little peroxide and band aids couldn’t fix.”

Marines train like they fight, so making it as real as possible was important, said Gunnery Sgt. John D. Vest, battery gunnery sergeant, G Battery, from Houston, TX.
All of the instructors from Densus have stood “the line” and have used these tactics and techniques in real riots. Their system works and has been battle-tested.

Team members Andy Hinchincliffe, John Crawford, David Bruce and Leggat, all from the United Kingdom of Great Britain, embedded with G Battery in order to provide them with unprecedented level of access, said Kohler.

During classroom and field exercises Marines like Lance Cpl. Adam J. Jill, radio operator, G Battery, from Bay City, Mich., learned about crowd dynamics, negotiating, media handling and how to move and work as a team to control a crowd’s behavior.

A crowd in a combat environment is like a powder keg that can be set off with the tiniest of sparks. An angry group of individuals can quickly turn a mob into a riot, said Jill. “You have to know when to negotiate and when to be aggressive.”

Jill, who prior to the training felt more at ease sending radio transmissions, said he now feels just as confident in his ability to analyze a situation and spot the signs that things are headed for the worse.

“Reading individual behavior and knowing the dynamics of a crowd is vital to successful crowd control”, said Christopher G. Blalock, commanding officer, G Battery.

The key is finding a balance between using a stick to deal with the hardcore rioters and offering a carrot in negotiations with bystanders and those sitting on the fence who make up the majority, said Blalock.

When negotiations don’t work, Marines have to be prepared to escalate their use of force to establish order and prevent the injury or death of Marines and civilians, said Leggat.

During the week-long training in the desert and at Camp Buehring, the Marines spent countless hours learning proper striking and control techniques, striking points, and how to defend themselves against petrol-bombs. They practiced on each other so that they could know what it feels like to strike and be struck by a baton, debris or kicked by a rioter, said LCpl. Jared M. Frost, cannoneer, from Seattle.

The training culminated with a final exercise that involved three elaborate scenarios. In one, the Marines had to fly into a war-torn nation to defend the American Embassy and evacuate American citizens and other third-country nationals. A second involved returning to a hostile area to retrieve a family who did not make it to the evacuation site. The third involved restoring order to an area occupied by two groups at odds with each other.

Instructors controlled the crowd to test the Marines’ ability to apply the appropriate level of force in each scenario. They gradually turned up the pressure on the Marine force.
At the conclusion of the final exercise, the Marines huddled to discuss what they had learned.

Draveling said the biggest take-away for him was the re-affirmation of what he already knew, that small unit leadership and teamwork is vital during these types of missions.
Regardless of what team they were on, each Marine had to protect the man to his left and right, said Draveling. “We had to be quick on our feet to move our team to cover other teams who were in danger.”

“In a real riot,” said Draveling. “If we don’t watch out for each other, some of us may not make it back.”

For more information about the 11th MEU visit their website at http://www.usmc.mil/11thmeu.

January 26, 2008

Homes for Our Troops begins house in Alabama

By Garry Mitchell - The Associated Press
Posted : Saturday Jan 26, 2008 14:16:36 EST

IRVINGTON, Ala. — Two Black Hawk helicopters hovered and tipped rotors Friday in honor of Marine Sgt. Greg Edwards at a ceremony to start building a specially adapted home for the Edwards family.

To continue reading:


January 25, 2008

Bravery on the Battlefield

COP RAWAH, Iraq (Jan. 25, 2008) -- Heroism is defined by the actions of people in extreme situations.


Jan. 25, 2008; Submitted on: 02/02/2008 05:27:19 AM ; Story ID#: 20082252719
By Lance Cpl. Paul Torres, 1st Marine Division

These people rarely see themselves as heroes, but they are the heart of the Marine Corps ethos.

Cpl. Joseph T. Hand was a lance corporal during his first deployment to Iraq and served as an 81 millimeter mortar man. He now works in the S-3 shop with Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5.
A lot has changed since the last deployment when Hand was attached to 2nd Platoon, Company D, 3rd LAR.

“This deployment is a lot quieter,” said Hand.

Last deployment was more like what I imagined war to be like, said Hand, 22, who is from Kansas City Mo.

“It is cool to come back and see how the area has changed,” said Hand.

During his last deployment, Hand’s platoon lost six Marines and one Navy Corpsman.

“It is good to come back and see that their work has paid off,” said Hand.

“This year we aren’t focused on killing the enemy; we are focused on developing the Iraqi Police and the Iraqi Army as a whole,” said Hand.

Hand was shortly hospitalized by a Suicide Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device on his last deployment.

“I don’t remember hearing the blast,” said Hand. “I just remember the roof collapsing and thinking about my parents and my girlfriend.”

“He found his way back to us and went on patrols even while he was still hurt,” said Cpl. Jonathan G. Almeida, 21, from Beeville Texas, who is a squad automatic weapon gunner with 3rd Platoon, Company C, 3rd LAR.

Hands dedication was a constant that carried him through every scenario.

“I would describe him as extremely motivated,” said 1st Lt. Courtney M. Rapé, 25, from College Station, Texas, who is a platoon commander, Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd LAR.
“Hand had the ability to excel in many different jobs.”

While serving as not only a mortarman, but as a scout, rifleman, radio operator and vehicle commander, Hand proved his dedication to his fellow Marines during combat operations many times over.

During one such operation near Rawah, a vehicle hit a pressure plate Improvised Explosive Device and was engulfed in flames.

Not waiting for his own vehicle to stop, Hand jumped out and rushed to the burning hulk to render aid to the Marines inside. He crawled up on the vehicle while it was on fire and pulled out Staff Sgt. Scott, who had sustained severe burns. It was a dangerous situation as rounds began to cook off and explosives inside the vehicle detonated.

Scott was able to recover from his injuries and may not be alive today if not for the quick thinking of Hand.

“He loves his job and cares about the Marines around him,” said Almeida.

After that deployment was over, Hand wanted to make sure that his fellow Marines and sailor were not forgotten.

“While we were back in the states, we spent a lot of time with one of the families of a fallen Marine who was a friend,” said Almeida.

“I just wanted to let the families of the seven in our platoon that we lost know that we will never forget the things they have done for us and how they have made our lives better,” said Hand.

22nd MEU (SOC) completes final deployment hurdle

USNS ROTA, Spain (Jan. 25, 2008) -- With the final agricultural inspections of the USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44) and Ponce (LPD-15) over and done, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) Marines and sailors aboard the USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) recently completed the final wash down and inspection of the unit’s assets in Rota, Spain, Jan. 18. They filled the wash-racks here to complete the operation and in doing so, the unit marked its final hurdle before beginning the trans-Atlantic voyage home.


Jan. 25, 2008; Submitted on: 01/25/2008 04:54:58 PM ; Story ID#: 2008125165458
By Cpl. Peter R. Miller, 22nd MEU

The unit was able to complete their final wash down and inspection in only two days due to round-the-clock shifts and many long hours spent cleaning while still at sea. During the trip from the unit’s most recent operation in Israel, Marines and sailors piled into the lower decks of Kearsarge to clean all types of gear including weapons, communications equipment, tents and containers. Prior to entering the Suez Canal, members of the Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 261 (Reinforced), cleaned aircraft atop the ship’s flight deck.

The Marines cleaned “all the equipment they had,” said Sgt. Justin Bradley, a squad leader with Weapons Plt., India Co., Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. They cleaned and polished everything from seven-ton trucks and humvees to potable water canisters.

“Everything that has touched foreign soil will be cleaned,” said Bradley as he supervised the cleaning of unit’s many shipping containers. “We don’t want to bring anything that may be foreign to the United States back; any parasites, germs, or anything of that nature that could damage our own agricultural processes.”

The Marines and sailors worked eight-hour shifts around-the-clock to finish the job and expedite the journey home.

“The wash down is pretty much the culminating event as far as the home leg is concerned,” said Bradley. “It’s always the last major operation before returning home.”

USS Kearsarge and embarked elements of the 22nd MEU (SOC) began the voyage west Jan. 19. The unit left Camp Lejeune July 31, 2007.

The 22nd MEU (SOC) consists of its Ground Combat Element, BLT 3/8; Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; and its Command Element.

Bravery on the Battlefield

COP RAWAH, Iraq (Jan. 25, 2008) -- Heroism is defined by the actions of people in extreme situations.


Jan. 25, 2008; Submitted on: 02/02/2008 05:27:19 AM ; Story ID#: 20082252719
By Lance Cpl. Paul Torres, 1st Marine Division

These people rarely see themselves as heroes, but they are the heart of the Marine Corps ethos.

Cpl. Joseph T. Hand was a lance corporal during his first deployment to Iraq and served as an 81 millimeter mortar man. He now works in the S-3 shop with Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5.
A lot has changed since the last deployment when Hand was attached to 2nd Platoon, Company D, 3rd LAR.

“This deployment is a lot quieter,” said Hand.

Last deployment was more like what I imagined war to be like, said Hand, 22, who is from Kansas City Mo.

“It is cool to come back and see how the area has changed,” said Hand.

During his last deployment, Hand’s platoon lost six Marines and one Navy Corpsman.

“It is good to come back and see that their work has paid off,” said Hand.

“This year we aren’t focused on killing the enemy; we are focused on developing the Iraqi Police and the Iraqi Army as a whole,” said Hand.

Hand was shortly hospitalized by a Suicide Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device on his last deployment.

“I don’t remember hearing the blast,” said Hand. “I just remember the roof collapsing and thinking about my parents and my girlfriend.”

“He found his way back to us and went on patrols even while he was still hurt,” said Cpl. Jonathan G. Almeida, 21, from Beeville Texas, who is a squad automatic weapon gunner with 3rd Platoon, Company C, 3rd LAR.

Hands dedication was a constant that carried him through every scenario.

“I would describe him as extremely motivated,” said 1st Lt. Courtney M. Rapé, 25, from College Station, Texas, who is a platoon commander, Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd LAR.
“Hand had the ability to excel in many different jobs.”

While serving as not only a mortarman, but as a scout, rifleman, radio operator and vehicle commander, Hand proved his dedication to his fellow Marines during combat operations many times over.

During one such operation near Rawah, a vehicle hit a pressure plate Improvised Explosive Device and was engulfed in flames.

Not waiting for his own vehicle to stop, Hand jumped out and rushed to the burning hulk to render aid to the Marines inside. He crawled up on the vehicle while it was on fire and pulled out Staff Sgt. Scott, who had sustained severe burns. It was a dangerous situation as rounds began to cook off and explosives inside the vehicle detonated.

Scott was able to recover from his injuries and may not be alive today if not for the quick thinking of Hand.

“He loves his job and cares about the Marines around him,” said Almeida.

After that deployment was over, Hand wanted to make sure that his fellow Marines and sailor were not forgotten.

“While we were back in the states, we spent a lot of time with one of the families of a fallen Marine who was a friend,” said Almeida.

“I just wanted to let the families of the seven in our platoon that we lost know that we will never forget the things they have done for us and how they have made our lives better,” said Hand.

Lava Dogs beat the odds

MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII (Jan. 25, 2008) -- Before a combat deployment, every officer and staff noncommissioned officer has hopes of bringing back all their Marines and Sailors safely to be with their loved ones. That goal may seem unattainable to some, but 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, returned from Iraq in October with everyone they left with.


Jan. 25, 2008; Submitted on: 01/30/2008 02:28:00 PM ; Story ID#: 200813014280
By Cpl. Rick Nelson, MCB Hawaii

During the battalion’s first deployment to Iraq during OIF I, the unit sustained more casualties than any other unit since the
campaign began.

“Earlier in the year an article came out with the numbers of the most casualties during the war and 1/3 was number one,” said Gunnery Sgt. Eugene Holiday, communications chief, 3rd Marine Regiment. “This was a great accomplishment because the battalion was really hurt in OIF I. It was a great way to rebound from having that reputation to now being the first unit to return home with everyone we left with.”

While serving in Haditha with the Lava Dogs from 1/3, Holiday served as the battalion’s radio chief.

“I think the main reason we came home as a whole and took no casualties is because the officers and staff NCOs pushed the Marines and took the strict guidance from the battalion commander to be aware of safety at all times,” said Holiday, a Jasper, Ala., native. “It was a huge issue through training, and the deployment, and from day one it was embedded into our heads that the safety of our Marines always came first.”

Holiday added the battalion was always on their toes, whether they were patrolling or driving through the streets.
Aside from safety, Holiday feels the unit who inhabited the area before 1/3’s arrival in March had a lot to do with the battalion’s success.

“The ground work 2/3 made during their stay in the Triad made the situation a lot better …,” added 32-year-old Holiday.
Until the battalion returned in October, it seemed like an impossible feat to bring everyone home, Holiday said

Lance Cpl. Ezekiel D. Johnson, rifleman, 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1/3, said some people may think the battalion was able to accomplish this because they weren’t leaving the wire.

“That’s about as far from the truth as it gets,” Johnson said. “Bravo Company was constantly conducting mounted and dismounted patrols through Haditha, so our operations tempo had nothing to do with our success because it was as high as it could possibly be.”

“We accomplished something that was unheard of during combat,” he said. “Although I won’t be there, the ground work has been laid for 1/3, so there’s a good chance this feat will happen again during 1/3’s next deployment later this year.”

The battalion who was once known for having the most Marines killed during the Battle of Fallujah, the bloodiest battle since Vietnam’s Hue City, will now be known as the first battalion to return home intact– a feat the battalion hopes it’ll accomplish again.

January 24, 2008

Marine logisticians’ training puts the ‘combat’ in CLB-11

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait(Jan. 24, 2008) -- Some Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 11 exchanged their soft covers and coveralls for Kevlar helmets and body armor to take part in exercises designed to sharpen their judgment and war-fighting skills here this week.


Submitted by: 11th MEU
Story by: Computed Name: Staff Sgt. Sergio Jimenez
Story Identification #: 20081247141

According to Gunnery Sgt. Henry, operations chief, CLB-11, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Camp Pendleton, Calif., his Marines and sailors are taking part in convoy operations exercises, weapons shoots, humvee rollover training and other exercises that will help them return safely from a variety of combat situations.

CLB-11 is the MEU’s combat logistics element and comprised of a headquarters element and personnel from supply, military police, transportation support, engineers, maintenance and health services detachments. Their purpose is to support all the elements of the 11th MEU in accomplishing their missions and to serve as the lead force ashore during humanitarian assistance, evacuation control center, and mass casualty response team missions.

Although CLB-11’s primary purpose is to support, it is essential for all Marines and sailors to receive this type of training because of the nature of combat today, said Henry. Combat has gone to an urban setting and the distinction between the front-lines and the rear has blurred, he said. “We are still in a danger area. So, we have to know the rules of engagement and be able to engage the enemy if and when we are attacked.”

CLB-11 Marines also learned how to counter improvised explosive devices and how to prevent fratricide. They also participated live-fire weapons training, firing small caliber rifles and medium weapons like the 240G Automatic Machine Gun and the 249 Squad Automatic Weapon (249 SAW) in day and night-time environments using night-vision devices.

Marines like Cpl. Zach J. Rufenacht, a combat engineer from Mount Zion, MO, took part in the Engagement Skills Trainer, a “shoot-don’t shoot” indoor simulated marksmanship trainer designed to help Marines make good judgments on when to fire their weapons during room clearing, hostile protests, entry control point engagements and cordon and searches. The training was designed to sharpen their decision making abilities and improve their reaction time.

“The scenarios in the simulator helped give me a “warm and fuzzy” [peace of mind] and helped me to decide how to react and do the right thing,” said Rufenacht.

Rufenacht and other Marines also got some demolition, urban breaching and explosives training. The best part of this training, he said, was when he blew through doors with explosive charges and cleared rooms with members of the MEU’s reconnaissance and sniper platoons during a live-fire “360 shoot house” exercise. “We went through the house and engaged multiple enemy targets.”

The Camp Pendleton unit also took part in the Humvee Egress Assistance Trainer (HEAT), a humvee roll-over simulator. During HEAT, a group of Marines enter a simulator that rotates 360-degrees in both directions. Marines and Sailors must battle disorientation to exit the vehicle safely and provide full security, much like they would do in real roll-over.

“With all of the traveling that we do, if anybody needs this training, we do,” said Henry.
So far the training overall has been outstanding. “We just need to be able to do more. “I’d like to see one of these humvee roll-over simulators back at Camp Pendleton, so that we don’t have to wait to get to Kuwait to do this type of training.”

“Frequent rollover training would be invaluable to our Marines,” said Henry. “And it would save lives.”

For more information about the 11th MEU visit their website at http://www.usmc.mil/11thmeu.

January 23, 2008

Corps involuntarily activates 870 IRR members

By Kimberly Johnson - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Jan 23, 2008 6:05:27 EST

The Corps is reaching back into the Individual Ready Reserve this week to involuntary activate 870 Marines, most for duty in Iraq, service officials said.

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January 22, 2008

Marine may finally get Medal of Honor

For the better part of three years, the refrain from grunts in the Marine Corps has been, "What about Peralta?"


Tuesday, January 22, 2008
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

More specifically, the question they have is about Sgt. Rafael Peralta's Medal of Honor recommendation, and where it stands.

Finally, there may be some good news.

Rosa Peralta, his mother, received a call just before Christmas from an assistant secretary of the Navy saying the recommendation had been approved by the Pentagon, and needs the president's final OK, a family representative said.

"Based on what he told her, which is what she told me, it's already passed the military chain of command," said California lawyer George Sabga, a retired Marine who acts as a go-between for the family.

Peralta, a Mexican immigrant who enlisted the day after he got his green card, and who proudly posted the U.S. Constitution in his home in San Diego, was killed on Nov. 15, 2004, in Fallujah, Iraq.

The short and stocky Marine had deployed to Japan with 900 other members of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, but the Kane'ohe Bay unit was rerouted to Iraq and found itself in the thick of fierce street fighting.

Shot in the face as he and other Hawai'i Marines cleared a house, Peralta, 25, had the presence of mind to grab a tossed Iraqi grenade and pull it into his body, saving fellow Marines.

Peralta was killed instantly.

He was not only a hero, but an immigrant hero who got his citizenship while in uniform, loved what America and the Corps stood for, and proved it with his life, say those who knew him.

Robert Reynolds, one of the Alpha Company Marines who was in that Iraqi house on that day, figures Peralta saved the lives of as many as five Marines.

"When I first saw that grenade, I figured I was done," said Reynolds, 30, now a corrections officer in Washington state. "But when I saw Sgt. Peralta reach out and grab it, at first I was kinda confused. The grenade went off and I was like, 'Oh my God, I'm still here,' and I continued to fight."

U.S. Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., in late 2004 wrote a letter to then Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee recommending Peralta for the Medal of Honor.

The supreme sacrifice made by the Marine, whose nickname was "Rafa," already has passed into lore and legend.

The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, to which Peralta was assigned in 2004, in September named its Camp Hansen headquarters in Japan "Peralta Hall."

On Memorial Day 2005, President Bush singled out Peralta for his valor, saying he "understood that America faces dangerous enemies, and he knew the sacrifices required to defeat them."

As a "platoon guide," Peralta didn't have to be there as Hawai'i Marines slogged through Fallujah in one of the biggest battles of the war, but he volunteered.

There is widespread acknowledgement that Peralta deserves the Medal of Honor, but more than three years after his death, the recommendation has remained just that, frustrating fellow Marines and family.

"I told (Rosa Peralta's casualty assistance officer) that enough's enough," Sabga said. "This thing's gotta end sooner or later, one way or the other. Approve it or downgrade it."

Rosa Peralta, who speaks only Spanish, declined through a representative to talk about the Pentagon phone call she received. Those acting for her said she wants the Medal of Honor to be approved before commenting.

Marine headquarters did not comment on the recognition status. In anticipation of the award, another retired Marine working with the Peralta family has created a Web site, www.rafaelperalta.org.


The Medal of Honor is the nation's highest military award for valor in action against an enemy force that can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the U.S. armed forces. The award was established by Congress in 1862.

Only two have been awarded for fighting in Iraq.

In October, a Pearl Harbor-based Navy SEAL, Lt. Michael P. Murphy, became the first service member to receive the Medal of Honor during more than six years of fighting in Afghanistan.

Murphy, 29, gave his life trying to save his four-man team during a 2005 mission high in the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan.

Murphy's recognition came two years and four months after he died. Peralta died three years and two months ago.

The review before a Medal of Honor is awarded is exhaustive. For the first two recipients from the Iraq war, Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith and Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham, it took between two and 2 1/2 years.

Both died in battle. Like Peralta, Dunham gave his life smothering a grenade to protect others.

"I can't honestly tell you why it's taken so long (for Peralta). I can speculate like everyone else can, but I don't know," Reynolds said.

There were rumors of a friendly fire gunshot, and questions about Peralta's mental alertness when he pulled in the grenade.

Marines who were there, though, say there is no disputing Peralta's bravery as he lay seriously wounded on the floor, trying to move. He should get the Medal of Honor, they say.

"He deserves it, by far. It's obvious," said Adam Morrison, who was a few feet away from Peralta. "They awarded Cpl. Dunham (the Medal of Honor) for doing the same exact thing."

Morrison, 23, now a sergeant at Kane'ohe Bay, remembers one of three enemy fighters lobbing a grenade as they fled out a back door. There were about eight Marines moving through the two-story concrete house.

He said the grenade bounced off furniture and landed next to Peralta. "It was kind of like out of reach for us. Everything was happening so quick," Morrison said.

Reynolds remembers the grenade being yellow, and looking like a pineapple.

"I can sit here right now and I can see (Peralta) taking his right arm out and scooping it into his body," Reynolds said.

The Hawai'i Marines said they had taken fire from alleys, rooftops and other buildings as they went house to house in Fallujah, but it was the first time Alpha Company had encountered an ambush inside a house.

Morrison said all was quiet until the two Marine fire teams reached the back of the house, which had interconnected living rooms. Three enemy fighters were waiting.

When the Marines kicked in a door, gunshots rang out.

"Rounds flew right past me and (Brannon) Dyer and kinda skinned our gear," Morrison said.

That's when Peralta was hit and went down.

Reynolds said Peralta was shot three times on the left side of his face. Reynolds, shot in the arm, kept fighting. Shrapnel from the grenade hit several Marines and the house was on fire.

Dyer, 30, who's out of the Corps and lives in Blairsville, Ga., said "you could see enemy weapons, (rocket-propelled grenades) and grenades. They had a large storage of weapons."

It didn't surprise Morrison that Peralta reached for the grenade.

"He was just that type of guy," Morrison said. "He really wanted to be a Marine, and to be an American."


Peralta grew up in Tijuana, moved to California, went to Morse High School and enlisted in 2000. His father died in a truck accident the next year, and his fiancee, Maritca Alvarez, died in a vehicle accident in Mexico.

The Marines made him do recruiting for a while, but Peralta insisted on being deployed for war duty, Morrison said.

Reynolds said Peralta was a "Marine's Marine" who was "all about taking care of his guys."

He remembers that when the Hawai'i Marines were in Kuwait, waiting to enter Iraq, Peralta had his camouflage uniform pressed so it had a "military crease."

"We're in the middle of a war zone, and he's worrying about his uniform," Reynolds said.

Morrison said Peralta "was a good guy, morally, mentally and physically. He was strong, same as spiritually. He was real spiritual."

For Reynolds and the others who were in that house in 2004, the wait since Peralta was recommended for the nation's highest military honor has been tough.

They relive the firefight as the legend of Rafael Peralta grows, but the Medal of Honor remains out of reach.

"It's been aggravating because you hear so many different things," Reynolds said. "You hear that he's not getting it. You hear that he is getting it. You hear that it's going to be on such and such a date, but then that date comes and goes. And it's been three years now."

Said Morrison, of Peralta's recommendation: "I'm kind of a religious guy. Jesus Christ said there's no greater love for someone than to lay your life down for them. That right there just characterizes everything."

Reach William Cole at [email protected]

January 21, 2008

A new generation of homeless veterans emerges

By Erin McClam - The Associated Press
Posted : Monday Jan 21, 2008 9:11:25 EST

LEEDS, Massachusetts — Peter Mohan traces the path from the Iraqi battlefield to this lifeless conference room, where he sits in a kilt and a Camp Kill Yourself T-shirt and calmly describes how he became a sad cliche: a homeless veteran.

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January 20, 2008

Scarlett Johansson boosts morale in Kuwait

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait(Jan. 20, 2008) -- If anyone has wondered what can make a battle hardened Marine act like a love-struck high-schooler, the answer is simple—a meet and greet with Scarlett Johansson.


Submitted by: 11th MEU
Story by: Computed Name: Cpl. Scott M. Biscuiti
Story Identification #: 20081219241

The 23-year-old bombshell met with nearly 600 service members at Camp Buehring, Kuwait Jan. 20 during her five-day United Service Organizations (USO) tour to the Gulf region.

Hundreds of Marines and sailors from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit put on their best smiles as they waited anxiously to get a glimpse of the Hollywood actress.

“I’m a huge Scarlett fan,” said Lance Cpl. Nathan Long, a calibration technician with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166 (REIN), 11th MEU. “When I found out she was coming, I couldn’t believe it. All I thought about was that I needed to meet her.”

A hush fell over the crowd as Johansson, wearing a pink sweater, knee-high boots and cherry-red lipstick, entered the USO. Long’s wait to meet her would end soon.

Johansson wasted no time after she arrived at the packed USO and headed toward the assembled crowd to introduce herself and meet her peers.

“It’s important to give people a piece of home and to boost morale,” Johansson said about her visit. “Everybody out here is risking everything, giving us one of the biggest gifts they can. I want to be out here to support them.”

Johansson’s friendly demeanor and sincere interest in her fans quickly won them over.

“I didn’t know what to expect or what she was going to be like,” said Sgt. Brian Dryer, a pay agent with the 11th MEU command element. “She seemed truly interested and wanted to spend time getting to know you.”

The ‘Lost in Translation’ star posed for photos and signed autographs for the eager troops. She signed everything from hats and magazines to unit patches and open hands. A few service members were lucky enough to get a kiss on the cheek.

“It’s nice to give them a smile in the middle of the day,” she said about her military fans. “If they are missing home, feeling down or worried, hopefully being here will get their minds off of things.”

Dryer, impressed with Johansson’s genuine personality said he will be on the lookout for her future projects, ‘since she was so cool.’

“She definitely made a fan out of me,” said the Grand Rapids Mich., native.

After every fan got their autographs and photos, Johansson donned her sunglasses and stepped outside. She was off to another camp to greet the next group of eager fans.

In a parting message to the military members, the actress said, “Stay safe. Everybody is thinking of you and waiting for you at home.”

Man who keyed car gets day in court; so do Marines

Jay Grodner, the Chicago lawyer who keyed a Marine's car in anger because the car had military plates and a Marine insignia, finally got his day in court last week.


By John Kass | Tribune columnist
January 20, 2008

Grodner pleaded guilty in a Chicago courtroom packed with former Marines. Some had Marine pins on their coats, or baseball jackets with the Marine insignia. They didn't yellor call him names. They came to support Marine Sgt. Michael McNulty, whose car Grodner defaced in December, but who couldn't attend because he's preparing for his second tour in Iraq.

Grodner was late to court for the second time in the case. Grodner called Assistant State's Attorney Patrick Kelly, (Marine Corps/Vietnam 1969-1972), informing Kelly that he would be late to court.

"He wanted to avoid the media," Kelly said Friday. "So he's coming a half hour late."

"I don't run my courtroom that way!" responded Judge William O'Malley, ordering Grodner be arrested and held on $20,000 bail when he arrived. Finally, Grodner strolled in. A short man, wide, wearing a black fedora, dark glasses, a divorce lawyer dressed like some tough guy in the movies.

Grodner told me he'd describe himself as a "radical liberal" who's ready to leave Chicago now with all this negative publicity and move to the south of France and do some traveling.

Judge O'Malley has also traveled, but in his youth. He was a police officer on the West Side during the riots before law school. And before that, he performed another public service. Judge O'Malley served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1961-1964.

During the proceedings, the judge described the offense as anger rose in his voice, especially as Grodner started balking on a plea arrangement he'd made with prosecutors.

"Is this what you did? Yes or no," Judge O'Malley asked Grodner.

"Without knowing, yes," Grodner said, sticking to his I-might-have-done-it-but-didn't-really-mean-it defense.

O'Malley asked again, in a stronger voice, not that of a judge but of a cop on the street or a Marine who meant business.


Grodner bowed his head, meekly, and responded in an equally meek voice:

"Yes," he said.

After the admission, came the details and Grodner was lucky, getting off with a misdemeanor and no jail time, and not a felony even though he caused $2,400 in damage to Sgt. McNulty's car.

So Grodner received a $600 fine, which will go to a Marine charity, 30 hours of community service and a year of court supervision. If he doesn't pay up in a month, the judge promised to put him in jail for a year.

Judge O'Malley had something to say. He looked out into his courtroom, at all those men who'd come to support a Marine they didn't know.

"You caused damage to this young Marine sergeant's car because you were offended by his Marine Corps license plates," said Judge O'Malley.

Grodner stood there, hands behind his back. He grasped the fingers of his left hand with his right, and held it there, so they wouldn't wiggle.

"You're probably also wondering why there was a whole crowd of people here, Mr. Grodner," said Judge O'Malley.

"I don't want to wonder," said Grodner, continuing in his new meek voice, not in his tough divorce lawyer voice, but the gentle, inside voice he'd just learned.

"That's because there is a little principle that the Marine Corps has had since 1775," the judge continued. "When they fought and lost their lives so that people like you could enjoy the freedom of this country. It is a little proverb that we follow:

"No Marine is left behind.

"So Sgt. McNulty couldn't be here. But other Marines showed up in his stead. Take him away," said the judge and former Marine.

They took Grodner away, he was processed, and everyone left. The lobby was dark, quiet, except for two court deputies running the metal detector. Then Grodner came through an inside door, put his fedora back on, the dark glasses, a tough guy again.

We stood outside, in the parking lot, talking for 20 minutes. He smoked, and I didn't. He explained that he wasn't anti-military and why he pleaded guilty.

"The judge, he's the guy with the black robes," Grodner said. He could have been slapped with a felony, but Sgt. McNulty's family said they wanted to put this behind them and let it go as a misdemeanor. Grodner showed no remorse, and I asked if he'd apologize.

"Yes, I'd say, 'I'm sorry if I scratched your car.' It escalated. That's when he wanted me locked up and thrown away," said Grodner, always the victim.

Grodner tells me he plans to leave for the French Riviera and get some sun.

Sgt. McNulty will get some sun, too. In Iraq.

[email protected]

January 19, 2008

11th MEU sharpens warfighting skills in desert training

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait(Jan. 19, 2008) -- Firing the AT-4 anti-tank weapon is like getting a shot of pure adrenaline and getting knocked on the side of the head.


Submitted by: 11th MEU
Story by: Computed Name: Staff Sgt. Sergio Jimenez
Story Identification #: 2008119151926

But it was the best knock on the head he’s ever received, said Lance Cpl. Tyler S. Carroll, a Sandy, Utah native, describing how he felt after firing his first live anti-tank weapon during his unit’s desert sustainment training at the Udairi Range Complex here this week.

For more than a week, the Marines of Company C, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Camp Pendleton, Calif. have been fanned out across various ranges sharpening their war-fighting skills with static weapons shoots and live-fire exercises.

“It’s basic infantry, straight assault tactics. It’s our bread and butter,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua T. Gutierrez, 4th Platoon sergeant, Company C. Marines train using cover and concealment tactics and techniques all the time because they are universal. These tactics will work whether in a jungle, inside buildings, fallen logs or a dirt pile, he said. “They are also perishable skills.”

According to 1stLt. Clinton K. Hall, 1st Platoon Commander, Company C, from Winnemucca, Nev., small unit leadership was the main focus of this training, so squad leaders served as the primary instructors.

The squad leaders focused on teaching their Marines how to move effectively under cover fire, how to employ their weapons effectively and how to react to enemy contact at close and at long range, said Gutierrez. This was done on a range designed to simulate an urban combat environment littered with bombed out buildings, bullet-riddled vehicles and pop-up targets. The weapons used included the M16A4 and M4 Service Rifles, M203 Grenade Launcher, Squad Automatic Weapon, training fragmentation grenades and the AT-4.

Throughout the exercise, the squad leaders put their Marines to the test and kept their eyes on the weapons for safety reasons. They instructed and challenged the decisions and actions of their Marines and corrected them on the spot. They also added artificial stress by changing the dynamics of the scenario to see how their Marines would react.

“You’ve been shot in the right arm and you’re down,” one instructor yelled at a Marine. When the Marine started yelling for help, a corpsman came over to apply medical aid. This prompted some members of the squad to drag the injured Marine to safety. “Why aren’t you providing security!” yelled a squad leader to a hesitant Marine and he quickly complied.
According to Carroll, a rifleman with 4th Plattoon, Company C, BLT 1/5, the training was the best he’s ever had. “It felt very realistic and really made us think.”

Carroll said his fire team’s scenario was to take out an enemy sniper who was holed up in an unknown location. “My job was to maneuver my way onto the roof of a building and destroy an enemy vehicle to create a chaotic environment to allow my team to advance in the direction of the sniper.”

His team members provided cover for him as he bounded from vehicle to vehicle and then onto the roof of a building.

From up high, Carroll had a clear shot. “I thought to myself, ‘I better not miss because my team is depending on me,” he said. Carroll steadied himself, aimed in, warned those behind him to stay clear of the back-blast area and then let the missile fly. In a flash, the enemy vehicle exploded into a ball of flames and smoke. “My shot went right through the door,” said Carroll. “It was awesome. The AT-4 tracer trainer doesn’t come close to the real thing,” said Carroll.

Firing the AT-4 was the highlight of his week, said Carroll. It made the days spent in the desert training under freezing temperatures seem like a not-so-cold and distant memory.

January 18, 2008

Desert exercise strengthens Marine teamwork

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait(Jan. 18, 2008) -- A Marine rifleman knows that surviving in combat not only takes individual skills, but also buddies who look out for him.


Submitted by: 11th MEU
Story by: Computed Name: Staff Sgt. Sergio Jimenez
Story Identification #: 200811951434

This is the basic idea behind the training exercises being conducted by the Marines of Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit at the Udairi Range Complex during their sustainment training here this week.

Weapons Company trainers don’t have an official name for it, but they describe it as individual movement and enemy suppression training that aims to teach “buddy pairs” or “buddy teams,” groups of two and four Marines how to systematically move against an enemy target to destroy it with accurate and devastating firepower.

“Shoot, move, communicate, basic infantry skills is what we’re teaching,” said Gunnery Sgt. Michael E. Lillie, 81 millimeter mortar platoon sergeant, Weapons Company, BLT 1/5, from Portland, Ore., during a hand grenade toss exercise. That’s the mission of a Marine Corps’ rifle squad on the offense, he said.

During the exercise, the teams alternated bounding across the desert using vehicles, natural and man-made obstacles and terrain features as cover. When they got close enough, they threw a grenade onto a 10-foot wide circle in the sand that simulated the enemy target. Platoon sergeants followed the buddy teams through the course yelling instructions and correcting Marines on the spot when they failed to provide proper cover fire for their buddies, failed to seek proper cover from enemy fire or didn’t use their weapons effectively.

“Get behind the vehicle when you’re re-loading [your weapon]. You’re exposed!” yelled a sergeant to a young Marine, as they made their way to neutralize a simulated enemy sniper. Their aim is to get them to work better in small teams and to coordinate their movements and small arms fire to suppress the enemy and get close enough to throw their grenades, he said.

“The dynamics of grenade range throwing while suppressing an enemy is an integral part of training for missions both in Iraq and Afghanistan that most units don’t get to practice back in the States,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jason S. Selby, operations chief, Weapons Company, who is from Riverside Calif.

After a safety brief and a dry run using training “dummy” grenades that let out a loud muffled pop and a white puff of smoke, and using rifles without ammunition, the Marines and the range went “hot.” The Marine’s locked and loaded their M16A4 or M4 Service Rifles and went into action.

The exercises were designed to challenge individual Marines and small-unit leaders to make efficient use of the weapons at their disposal and implement maneuver tactics they were previously taught, said Capt. Nathan A. Fleischaker, executive officer, weapons company, BLT 1/5, who is from San Diego.

But Marines understood that it was more than that. The training, some said, drove home the tough reality that if a Marine doesn’t do his job, the Marines next to him may become casualties of war.

“’My buddies are depending on me.’ That’s what’s running through my head,” said Lance Cpl. Shawn K. Bartlett, radio operator, 81 millimeter mortar platoon, from Vero Beach, Fla., so his focus-level was sky-high, he said.

Bartlett said he used visualization to help him through his live-fire run. “I pictured myself running through the trenches” and seeing the enemy in the location where he was to lob the grenade. And of course, taking the enemy out, he said.

Lance Corporal Michael A. Jones, fire direction center plotter, 81 mm platoon, Weapons Platoon, said the live-fire and handling live grenades gave him an adrenaline high that was still with him long after the event was over.

According to Fleischaker, this exercise is intended to be the foundation for future training that will be more complex and involve more weapons and larger groups of Marines.

Jones, who is 19 years old, said he graduated high school early and went to work for the local cable company in Salem, Ore. The job didn’t challenge him, so he joined the Corps, he said.

Half way around the world, he is in the middle of the desert. He is cold, dirty and a little sleep-deprived. When a Marine reminds him that his training has just begun, Jones smiles. “This is definitely what I signed up for.”

Corps creates intel cells at rifle-company level

By Kimberly Johnson - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Jan 18, 2008 15:52:12 EST

A need for more intelligence analysts in the Corps is forcing infantry operations to get a whole lot smarter, under a new initiative that is for the first time pushing battalion-level intelligence know-how down to the rifle-company level.

To continue reading:


January 17, 2008

Post office to add larger flat-rate box

WASHINGTON - The Postal Service is adding a larger flat-rate Priority Mail box and a charge for Sunday and holiday delivery, the first changes it has made under a law approved last year governing mail operations.


Thu Jan 17, 5:54 PM ET

Previously such changes would have to be announced and go through a lengthy hearing process before going into effect.

The new law smoothed the process. The post office said Thursday the changes will take effect March 3.

A new flat-rate Priority Mail box will become available at $12.95 for shipping anywhere in the United States. The agency will discount it to $10.95 for shipping to military addresses.

The new box measures 12-inches-by-12-inches-by-5.5-inches, containing nearly 800 cubic inches of space. Two smaller flat rate boxes will still be available for $8.95. They are each a more than 500 cubic inches.

In addition, the agency said it will begin charging a $12.50 premium for delivery of Express Mail on Sunday or holidays. Previously the Postal Service has not changed extra for delivering on those days.

Marines Want 870 IRR Members

ARLINGTON, Va. - The Marine Corps will send orders next week to about 870 members of the Individual Ready Reserve to go downrange in the fall, officials said.


Stars and Stripes | Jeff Schogol | January 17, 2008

Marines in the IRR have left active duty but still have time on their service obligation. Unlike other reserve component troops, they are not attached to units and do not drill.

The majority of the Marines are expected to go to Iraq, while the rest will go elsewhere in the U.S. Central Command theater of operations, officials said.

Of the Marines expected to receive orders to deploy, about 300 are ground Marines, about 100 are in motor transportation, 75 are military police, and the rest come from about 60 other Military Occupational Specialties, said Col. Steve Driggers, of a Manpower and Reserve Affairs.

Only eight of the Marines are officers, while the rest are at the rank of sergeant or below, Driggers said.

The IRR Marines will be activated for 12 months - a seven-month deployment and four-and-half months of pre-deployment training, he said.

In August 2006, the Corps announced it was authorized to mobilizecall up as many as 2,500 Marines from the IRR at any given time to fill shortfalls in the active-duty force.

Since then, the Marine IRR has held three musters, after which a total of 1,464 Marines have received orders to deploy, officials said.

At the latest muster in September, about 1,900 Marines were screened in the hopes of getting 1,500 Marines to deploy.

Not all Marines who are screened get orders to deploy because they can be exempt for medical reasons, hardships and other circumstances.

Of those Marines who were screened and did not receive orders, about 500 had medical reasons for not deploying, about 250 had hardship reasons, about 200 had joined Reserve units, and about 50 had gone back to active-duty or joined other services, Driggers said.

To make up for any shortfalls, the Corps can go to the Select Marine Corps Reserve or active-duty force, said Corps spokesman Maj. Stephen O'Connor.

In the prior IRR call-up, about 540 of the roughly 1,800 Marines screened received orders to go downrange, O'Connor said.

Climbing corpsman conquers mountain carrying Corps’ colors

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Jan. 17, 2008) -- At 6,288 feet, Mt. Washington is the tallest mountain in the Northeast and a treacherous mound of earth, rock, and ice known to have the some of the worst weather of any mountain in the eastern United States. Climbing such a mountain might be a daunting task for anyone to undertake, but Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Szylobryt, hospital corpsman, Marine Special Operations Support Group, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, took on the challenge and planted a Marine Corps flag at the summit of Mt. Washington, N.H., Jan. 3.


Jan. 17, 2008; Submitted on: 01/17/2008 07:36:27 AM ; Story ID#: 200811773627
By Lance Cpl. Stephen C. Benson, Marine Forces Special Operations Command

“I’ve always been climbing around mountains since I was a kid,” said Szylobryt. “I would always try to find the biggest thing around and just climb it for fun.”

Szylobryt’s trek up the mountain began when he and his roommate’s family decided to take a ski trip to New Hampshire’s White Mountain range. According to Szylobryt, he saw it as an opportunity to challenge himself. He had climbed a similarly challenging mountain in June 2007 when he made it to the top of Mt. Rainier in Washington state, but Mt. Washington’s cold and windy weather posed a new and different challenge for Szylobryt.

“I stood at the bottom and looked at the top thinking that it was going to be really cold,” explained Szylobryt. “I could barely stand the temperature at the bottom, I thought it was going to be freezing at the top.”

According to Szylobryt, the start of the climb went smoothly because a winding trail made that portion of the climb easier. However, after crossing the tree line, the way up became icy and steep, the wind became more intense without trees to serve as a shield and he was forced to use an ice axe to assist his climb.

During Szylobryt’s climb, he noticed a Marine Corps flag planted about half way up the mountain. Szylobryt then remembered he had passed a Marine earlier on the mountain from 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, who was prevented from climbing to the peak by overwhelming snow drifts. Szylobryt decided on the spot to take the Corps’ colors where they were supposed to be – to the top of the mountain.
He now had extra motivation to complete his ascent and with renewed determination, he arrived at the summit before day’s end.

Szylobryt planted the flag next to a wooden sign that designates Mt. Washington’s official highest point and then reflected on his victory.

“When you’re standing on the top and looking out, the world is just a carpet of clouds and all you can see are the other peaks and the crystal blue sky,” said Szylobryt. “Your problems seem insignificant and you just feel great.”

According to Szylobryt, he plans to reach the precipice of yet another of nature’s obstacles and climb Alaska’s Mt. McKinley, the highest point in all of North America, by 2010.

Twentynine Palms Marines Prepare for First Trip to Afghanistan

Marines from Twentynine Palms are getting ready for a unique experience. They'll be the first full battalion to enter Afghanistan since 2001.


Jan 17, 2008 01:26 AM CST
By Nathan Baca
News Channel 3

They leave in April and they're already getting prepared.

But Marines in the 2nd battalion were all pretty nonchalant about their deployment. They're used to this sort of thing, with most of them already serving two or three tours of duty in Iraq.

Most Marines have trained for the Iraqi desert and many have seen several tours of duty there.

So Afghanistan's mountainous terrain will pose a whole new set of challenges.

"Just getting to know the people and the surroundings is gonna be our biggest challenge," says Marine Sgt. Anthony Hinkle.

While the Marines don't know the exact details, we're told it's a training and development mission for Afghan security, similar to other missions they've served in Iraq.

Over 3,200 Marines in total are heading to Afghanistan from Twentynine Palms and another batallion from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Between the two companies, Marines say they have the experience it takes to finish the job.

Postal Service Announces Two New Shipping Initiatives

Governors Approve Bigger Flat-Rate Box with First-Time Military Discount,
Express Mail Sunday and Holiday Premium

WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. Postal Service announced today that its Board of Governors approved two new initiatives to grow its shipping business and revenue. A new, larger Priority Mail Flat-Rate Box enables customers to ship 50 percent more than with the current box. It will be offered at a discount to overseas military addresses, a postal first for the armed forces. The agency also announced a new Sunday and holiday delivery price for Express Mail. Customers can begin using the new boxes March 3, the same day the premium takes effect.


Jan. 17, 2008

The Postal Service filed notification of these decisions today with the Postal Regulatory Commission. They are the first actions under the new pricing regulations set forth under the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006. Notice of the changes will appear in the Federal Register.

New Priority Mail Large Flat-Rate Box

The current flat-rate box, which gives customers a single, predetermined rate regardless of the weight or delivery zone, was introduced in November 2004. The new, larger box extends the agency’s successful flat-rate offerings, providing more choices for small businesses and consumers.

“We listened to our customers, and we’re giving them a new box that lets them ship larger items while still enjoying the benefits of a flat rate,” said Postmaster General John Potter. “Flat-rate boxes are very popular and the new, larger version provides even more value.”

The new Priority Mail Large Flat-Rate Box (12" x 12" x 5½") can be used for both domestic and international shipments. This extends the flat-rate price and ease-of-use benefits to international shippers. There is also a 5 percent online discount.

There will be a special version of the box for the military, with a $2 discount, if shipped to an Army Post Office or Fleet Post Office (APO/FPO) address.

All Postal Service Priority and Express Mail packages and envelopes are environmentally friendly, exceeding the highest standards for recyclability.

Domestic Shipping $12.95
Military Shipping
• APO/FPO Addresses $10.95
International Shipping
• Canada and Mexico $29.95
• Other Countries $49.95

The Postal Service will continue to offer its original Priority Mail Flat-Rate Boxes, which currently retail domestically for $8.95.

Express Mail Sunday Delivery Price

The Governors also approved a $12.50 premium for Sunday and holiday Express Mail delivery. The premium, equal to competitor surcharges for Saturday delivery, reflects the unique delivery option the Postal Service provides on Sundays. As an alternative to Sunday, customers can choose Monday delivery at the standard Express Mail price.

“These are the first initiatives that take advantage of the flexibility afforded us by the new pricing regulations under the Postal Act of 2006,” said Potter. “They enable us to compete in the marketplace while continuing to meet the changing needs of our customers.”

More information can be found at usps.com.

January 16, 2008

Company intel changes pace of operations

COMBAT OUPOST AKASHAT, Iraq – Intelligence specialists at the battalion level support a large area of operations, but some ground combat companies prefer to have “intel” elements at their level, especially when that unit is responsible for a large area itself.


8/1/2008 By Cpl. Ryan Tomlinson, Regimental Combat Team 5

Marines with the Company Level Intelligence Cell, Delta Company, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd LAR Bn., Regimental Combat Team 5 created their team before mobilization to allow the unit to conduct a more expedient and efficient surveillance and studying of the enemy.

Delta Co. is a reserve unit attached to 2nd LAR Bn. in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The unit mobilized out of Quatico, Va., December 2007, and now conducts counter-insurgency operations throughout western Al Anbar Province.

“Our company decided it would be a good idea because it provides a more accurate assessment of the patrol force,” said Cpl. Matt G. Lidster, 21, intelligence representative from Burke, Va., with the CLIC. “We picked it up on the fly and ran with it.”

The CLIC is comprised of several hand-picked Marines from the company and trained by the 2nd LAR intelligence platoon. Not all of the members possess the military occupational specialty of intelligence clerk, but they have backgrounds from previous education, such as foreign relations and consulting, that make them valuable intelligence gathering assets. Some of their expertise relies simply on street smarts.

“I interviewed and hand-picked the Marines that would fit the profile of a good intelligence representative,” said Sgt. Charles N. Frangis, chief of the CLIC. “I’ve managed a lot of people in my life, and these Marines are the most talented and well balanced group I’ve ever been in charge of.”

Since the group was established, the Marines have apprehended several key drug and oil smugglers suspected of funding the insurgency. The members believe they have made an immense difference in the effectiveness of company-level intelligence and are proud to be part of one of the few small elements currently operating.

“I love being part of the CLIC; it’s the best thing I could do as a job in Iraq,” said Lance Cpl. T.J. McCabe, 27, an intelligence representative from Stafford, Va., with CLIC. “It feels good to know that I’m helping out our unit – and the next unit – tremendously with the information we gather. We save lives because of the information we acquire.”

The members of the CLIC will continue their efforts to support the line platoons on both operations and base missions. Since the Marines have experienced such success, they encourage other companies to construct their own intelligence teams.

“I give the most credit to my Marines, the ones that are on the streets conversing with the people and collecting the intelligence for the company and western Al Anbar province,” said Frangis, 38, from Rexford, N.Y. “I think that company-level intelligence is a very good asset and should continue to grow.”

22nd MEU (SOC), USS KEARSARGE support President’s visit in Israel

ABOARD USS KEARSARGE, at sea -- (Jan. 16, 2008) -- Elements of the Aviation Combat Element from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) completed support to the President of the United States’ visit to Israel Jan. 11, 2008.


Jan. 16, 2008; Submitted on: 01/16/2008 05:06:42 AM ; Story ID#: 20081165642
By - 22nd MEU (SOC) Public Affairs, 22nd MEU

While the amphibious assault ship USS KEARSARGE (LHD 3) remained at sea off the coast of Israel ready to launch additional support aircraft as needed, five CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced), the “Raging Bulls,” moved ashore to provide lift for members of the media, Secret Service members, senior members of the President’s staff, and the US Ambassador to Israel.

“It is a true honor to be able to support the President in his historical visit to Israel,” said 22nd MEU (SOC) Commanding Officer Col. Doug Stilwell. “We were happy to assist and show the President that the 22nd MEU (SOC) and the KEARSARGE Strike Group are capable, flexible, and ready to support any task.”

From Jan. 9-11, the CH-46E detachment moved passengers across the country, delivering them to the Sea of Galilee, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The contingent of aircraft maintainers, communications Marines, and pilots and aircrew stayed ashore to ensure the visit was successful and the aircraft were ready to support the mission on a daily basis.

“The hard work by the Marines and sailors ashore ensured the safe delivery of security teams, media members, and key personnel of the President’s staff,” said Lt. Col. James G. Flynn, commanding officer of HMM-261 (Rein.). “I couldn’t be more proud of the professionalism and focus displayed by the Raging Bulls to fully and flawlessly support this mission.”

Members of Marine Helicopter Squadron 1 (HMX-1), the Marine Squadron responsible for flying the President, expressed appreciation for the support offered by the Marines and sailors of HMM-261 and the 22nd MEU (SOC).

"It makes a big difference to have the detachment from the MEU out here with us,” said Lt. Col. Richard Rush, HMX-1 executive officer. “They're fellow Marines, and we worked together a lot in the fleet. Having them with us makes things go much smoother because we speak the same lingo and we work together very well. It was a pleasure to have them out here with us.”

The 22nd MEU (SOC) is currently embarked aboard the amphibious ships of the KEARSARGE Strike Group. The MEU and Strike Group returned to the Mediterranean Sea Jan. 1, 2008. The units are currently on a scheduled six-month deployment.

The 22nd MEU (SOC) consists of its Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team 3/8; Aviation Combat Element, HMM 261 (Rein.); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion-22; and its Command Element. For more information about the 22nd MEU (SOC), visit the website www.22meu.usmc.mil.

January 15, 2008

Marine Deployment to Afghanistan ‘One-Time Deal,’ Official Says

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15, 2008 – The deployment of 3,200 U.S. Marines to Afghanistan this spring represents a one-time troop movement that partially fulfills a long-time request by NATO commanders for additional forces, a senior Pentagon spokesman said here today.


By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

The deployment “does not reflect any new developments on the ground,” Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters at a news conference. “It reflects our means and ability to meet what has been a long-standing desire of the commanders there.”

About 2,200 Marines from 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and about 1,000 troops from 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, based at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center, at Twentynine Palms, Calif., are participating in the deployment, according to officials at the Defense Department and Marine Headquarters here.

The Marines will serve in Afghanistan for seven months, Morrell said, noting the temporary plus-up will boost the total number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to about 30,000 from around 27,000 now.

The deployment “is for a very finite period of time,” Morrell emphasized. “We’ve made it clear. This is seven months. This is a one-time deal; that’s it.”

Beyond that, “we’re going to need our allies’ help to either backfill this deployment or to perhaps match us in the numbers we’re putting forth,” Morrell said.

Senior leaders of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan have said in the past that they require another 7,500 troops to confront Taliban insurgents and to help train new Afghan soldiers and police, Morrell said.

Marines from 24th MEU should be in place in March to assist in NATO-led anti-insurgent operations in southern Afghanistan, Morrell said, while the 1,000 Marines from Twentynine Palms would be assigned to duty under American command sometime in April to assist in training Afghan security forces.

“Our planners have carefully considered when would be the best time to deploy these additional forces, and by getting the MEU in place in March, they believe it provides more than adequate time for them to be ready for the fighting season” that comes with the advent of spring, Morrell explained.

The temporary deployment of additional U.S. Marines to Afghanistan may inspire other NATO nations to pitch in with more forces, Morrell said. “We certainly hope that us doing so will inspire them to do so,” Morrell said. “At the very least, we would hope they would take a serious look at backfilling this deployment after the Marines leave at the end of this year.”

January 13, 2008

Weapons 2/8 improves community relation

RAMADI, Iraq (Jan. 13, 2008) -- Marines from Company W, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, currently stationed in East Ramadi, along with Iraqi police, recently conducted a dismounted patrol with the intentions to better understand their neighbors.


Jan. 13, 2008; Submitted on: 01/13/2008 05:58:03 AM ; Story ID#: 20081135583
By Lance Cpl. Charles E. McKelvey, II Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD)

This patrol the Marines and IPs ran, involved both a census operation and a vehicle checkpoint visit. These two things can clue the Marines from Company W, known as Weapons Company, into the people living in the surrounding villages and show the local Iraqis that the Marines and IPs are working together to provide security from insurgent extremist.

“We’ve been doing these census operations for about three weeks now,” said Cpl. Caleb Mcmillian, 2nd section leader, mobile assault platoon three. “It’s slow but steady progress.”

Weapons Company, new to the area, has quickly adapted to the environment, which differs from the one the line companies are working in, which are in the city.

“Being on the outskirts of the city, we have small agriculture areas that are situated throughout the area,” said Capt. Matthew J. Martin, company commander. “The population varies throughout our area of operations towards the river and is very dense and populated and very diverse, the houses range from poorly built all the way up to mansions.”

Although the census missions are not directly related to combat or battling insurgents, by doing the census the Marines and IPs lower the chances for insurgents and other anti-coalition forces to remain in the area.

“The census operations are important for us because it gives us a starting point if something ever happens in the area,” said Mcmillian. “We know the basic information about most of the people in the area so it’s hard for anyone to falsify information, which in turn helps to deter insurgents.”

The information the Marines and IPs are looking for from the locals ranges from the type of house they live in and vehicles they drive to how many people live in their house and what their sex and ages are.

“They normally don’t like for us to talk to the ladies so we look for the man of the house and deal directly with him,” said Mcmillian. “The information we try to get first from him is what tribe he belongs to and his he is pro-coalition or not. We also then get pictures of him and the members of their household.”

So far the census has turned out positive results, as the Marines of Weapons Company have found out an overwhelming amount of their neighbors are pro coalition. The Marines describe the locals as extremely friendly, talkative and appreciate everything we have to give them.

“There are many villagers that don’t have much so they ask us for stuff very often,” said Mcmillian. “We don’t mind it, and with it being winter we try to accommodate as many of their requests as possible.”

Although this mission differs greatly from the last time Mcmillian was in Iraq, he feels his section, to include the Marines who are deployed for their first time, are doing a standup job.

“I’ve got nine guys in my section and five of them are on their first deployment,” said Mcmillian. “Between the workups and time we’ve spent here so far, this section has become extremely proficient at what were doing out here.”

With the majority of the deployment ahead of them, the Weapons Company Marines look forward to continuing the progress they are making and maintaining the peace that was fought for in the years past.

“It’s nice to be out here this time working with the Iraqis and seeing that all the hard work has paid off,” said Mcmillian. “Because the last time we were here, this is what we were fighting for.”

11th MEU Recon gets SPIE high

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait (Jan. 13, 2008) -- Dangling from a single rope attached to a helicopter flying more than 250-feet above ground
isn’t how most people get around. But Reconnaissance Marines aren’t average, in fact for
them, it’s just another day at the office.


Jan. 13, 2008; Submitted on: 01/14/2008 12:12:24 PM ; Story ID#: 2008114121224
By Cpl. Scott M. Biscuiti, 11th MEU

The Reconnaissance and Sniper Platoons of Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th
Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit got to practice their aerial acrobatics
Jan.13 at Camp Buehring in Kuwait during a special purpose insertion/extraction (SPIE)

“SPIE rigging is an easy way to get in and out of a location if there is no way to land a helicopter or if there is an obstacle too high,” said Sgt. Shawn Reynolds, a helicopter rope suspension training, or HRST, master and Reconnaissance Marine with Recon Platoon.

Marines and sailors of the 11th MEU are conducting sustainment training in Kuwait as part of their current deployment to the Arabian Gulf.

For more information on the 11th MEU, visit our website at www.11meu.usmc.mil.

January 12, 2008

Marksmanship trainer helps Marines make good split-second decisions

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait(Jan. 12, 2008) -- Split second decisions made in combat can be the difference between life and death.


Submitted by: 11th MEU
Story by: Computed Name: Cpl. Scott M. Biscuiti
Story Identification #: 200811355040

In an effort to sharpen their decision making abilities and improve reaction time, a detachment of Marines and sailors from Marine Air Control Group 38 attended tactical, shoot and don’t shoot training at the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000 here Jan. 12.

MACG-38 is attached to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166 (REIN), Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego. HMM-166 (REIN) serves as the aviation combat element of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

The EST is an indoor simulated marksmanship training tool that replicates the look and feel of a real rifle and tracks the trajectory of fired rounds with computer sensors. The computer keeps track of where the shooter hits and how many times.

The MEU Marines and sailors faced multiple decision-making scenarios common to today’s military. The trainer forced the shooters to make split-decisions during room clearing, hostile protests, entry control point engagements and cordon and searches.

“The main purpose of the EST is to work on engagement skills,” Staff Sgt. David Robinson, an infantryman and EST instructor with 1st Army, 72nd Field Artillery, 5th Brigade. “It teaches guys when to escalate force and how to react to being fired upon.”
Sgt. Mario Perez, a field radio operator with HMM-166 (REIN), 11th MEU, said that practicing escalation of force and rules of engagement is invaluable.

“When Marines get into theater, it’s training like this that let’s us act without hesitation,” said Perez. In a real-world scenario, hesitation can cause death, he said.
Another strong point of the EST is that the diversity keeps the shooters from becoming complacent and creates muscle memory, something that might save a life in combat, said Robinson. “If they find themselves in one of the scenarios they have practiced, they will know what to do.”

January 11, 2008

CCX Combat conditioning exercises prepare Company D for battle

Equipped with a load-bearing vest and two canteens, Company D recruits battled fatigue through rain, mud and sweat to conquer the Combat Conditioning Exercise course Dec. 19.


1/11/2008 By Cpl. James Green, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego

The CCX is designed to give recruits a combat mindset by incorporating Marine Corps martial arts techniques while they are exhausted, said Sgt. Mauricio Ramirez, drill instructor, Instructional Training Company.

The course is composed of 10 stations, with transitional exercises such as fireman carries and buddy drags in between each one.

Amid leg sweeps, break falls and counters to chokes and holds, recruits faced numerous standing and ground techniques that tested their proficiency in the movements.

The course targets several sets of muscle groups by featuring techniques from the tan belt syllabus of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.

Originally run in the first phase of training, the CCX was recently moved to the third phase because recruits are more proficient with MCMAP after their field training during second phase, said Ramirez.

“There’s an old saying, ‘There’s an eight-hour movement for a 30-second fight,’” said Ramirez. “This course definitely defines that statement when the recruits get tired from the transition exercises and have to move on to the next station without a break.”

The recruits began the course with a war cry — a yell of aggression and sign of the intensity they were exerting. They tackled the first few stations with ease before the challenging tasks began to wear them out.

“This was by far the most intense workout we have done in boot camp,” said Recruit Joseph A. Helmick, Platoon 1073, Company D. “I liked it because it was really team-oriented and I actually felt like I accomplished something when we were done.”

Helmick, a native of Hebron, Ill., said he was drained by the end of the course and that it started to show on the last obstacle when he had trouble high-crawling — a crawling movement used to keep a low-profile while moving.

“(If) the recruits put out during the course, they should feel exhausted by the end,” said Ramirez, a Soledad, Calif., native. “The course is designed to exhaust them.”

Although the recruits run the CCX only one time during training, its purpose is to challenge them. Helmick said that if the recruits will themselves to perform to their full potential, they will feel that this was the most strenuous physical training session thus far in boot camp.

While no training can truly simulate battle, the CCX is a good starting point to teach future Marines to put mind over matter, Ramirez said. By requiring them to keep pushing, even when their bodies tell them to stop, they learn a great lesson in perseverance that can help them in a combat situation.

Don't call it a comeback: Marine goes from wounded warrior to silent warrior

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Jan. 11, 2008) -- The greatest leaders, it seems, don’t think of themselves as great.


Jan. 11, 2008; Submitted on: 01/11/2008 07:37:40 AM ; Story ID#: 200811173740
By Lance Cpl. Stephen C. Benson, Marine Forces Special Operations Command

"I don’t think I did anything special,” they may say, “I was just doing my job."

These are phrases commonly uttered by Marines when they are recognized for a job well done or praised for going above and beyond what is asked of them.

Sgt. Karl Klepper, selected as the United Service Organization’s 2007 Marine of the Year, is one of those Marines.

Klepper, now the operations noncommissioned officer for Marine Special Operations Advisor Group, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, received the award for his leadership and inspiration of fellow Marines at Camp Lejeune’s Wounded Warrior Battalion while recovering from injuries he sustained in combat.

The Marine’s path to the Wounded Warrior Battalion and on to MARSOC began on the streets of Karmah, Iraq.

On Sept. 27, 2005, then Cpl. Klepper was serving as a mortar man with Company G, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, in the northern part of Karmah.

“The enemy forces were protected by the local populace, so there was a lot of activity that was being seen, but no one was talking about it,” said Klepper. “We were having considerable problems with (improvised explosive devices) and limited supported engagements.”

According to Klepper, he was in a convoy to check in with and re-supply observation posts along a key, strategic road. After checking in with the OPs and conducting a short security sweep, Klepper and three other Marines got in their humvee and began the drive back to their forward operating base in a two-vehicle convoy.

Klepper was in the second vehicle of the convoy when an IED exploded nearby.
“The driver was knocked unconscious and the blast veered the vehicle off the road and flipped it over into a canal,” he explained.

Two other Marines, though injured, were able pull the driver free and scramble to safety, but Klepper lay in the canal under four feet of water, his left leg pinned beneath the overturned vehicle.

He did what he had to do to survive – and to lead his fellow Marines.

“I couldn’t stay above water. So I grabbed down to the battery panel in the back of the truck and picked myself up, breaking my leg,” said Klepper. “That’s what got my head above water.”

Klepper, still trapped, but now able to observe the situation, directed his Marines to set up security until, after an hour of waiting, a recovery vehicle arrived and the Marines were able to lift the humvee and pull Klepper free.

“I remember like ten sets of hands just grabbing me and pulling me up the bank,” explained Klepper. “It was amazing to look around and see all my buddies get a hold of me whether it was my cammies or just holding my helmet.”

From October to December 2005, Klepper went through a series of hospitals on his way back to Camp Lejeune. After nine surgeries, doctors were able to save his leg from amputation and he began extensive physical therapy to regain his strength and mobility.

While Klepper was being treated at the Naval Hospital here in December 2005, Lt. Col. Timothy Maxwell, advisor for the Wounded Warrior Regiment, stopped in to see him.

At that time, Maxwell was establishing the first ever Wounded Warriors Battalion at Camp Lejeune in order to give combat-injured Marines the opportunity to help each other, work through their injuries and get back to full duty.

Maxwell needed capable NCOs to serve as squad leaders and he found Klepper.
“I learned real quick Klepper was an aggressive, get-stuff-done kind of Marine,” said Maxwell. “He was constantly motivated, always finding things to do.”

“The biggest thing he gave the Marines was hope,” said Maxwell. “He let them know there are tough guys out there that are pushing through their injuries, and that’s important for them to see.”

According to Maxwell, Klepper made sure his Marines made their doctor's appointments, took their medications and stayed both mentally and physically healthy.

“Being with the Wounded Warriors Battalion is not like you’re on vacation,” said Maxwell. “We’re a tough battalion.”

According to Klepper, the Wounded Warriors Barracks shared a building with the Transient Officers Quarters at that time and Maj. Gen. Dennis J. Hejlik, MARSOC commander, was living there. In early 2006, a few months after Klepper’s injury and shortly before MARSOC’s official stand-up in Feb. 2006, Hejlik addressed the Wounded Warriors and asked if anyone would be interested in joining MARSOC. When Klepper heard what it was, he was immediately interested and wanted to be a part of it.

“It’s not necessarily kicking in doors, but being able to communicate with allies, being able to understand their culture and being able to teach them what they need to know to defend themselves so we don’t have to send a lot more Marines into harm’s way," said Klepper, explaining why he wanted to join MARSOC.

Once Klepper recovered from his injuries enough to go to work outside the Wounded Warriors Battalion, he volunteered for duty at MARSOC's Marine Special Operations Support Group. He reenlisted in February, 2007, received official orders to MSOAG and now, having recently completed a first class physical fitness test, is determined to enter MSOAG’s training pipeline and become an advisor.

Humble and unassuming, Klepper credits his fellow Marines for his accomplishments, including the USO Marine of the Year award, and prefers to share accolades and shoulder criticism.

“I think that everything that I have is a result of teamwork and team effort, so I don’t take any personal credit,” he explained. “I just take pride in the fact that I contributed to a group of people who accomplished something.”

Active duty Marines and Sailors interested in taking their training and experience to the next level and leading on battlefields beyond the front line can contact the Marine Special Operations School at (910) 450-3349/3123 (DSN 750-3349/3123) or visit us online at www.marsoc.usmc.mil.

January 9, 2008

Echo 2/8 confirms versatility of infantry in Anbar

RAMADI, Iraq(Jan. 9, 2008) -- It’s not their normal everyday mission. It’s not even what the Marine Corps infantry has historically trained to do. But the job Company E, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, is doing in the Anbar province is important nonetheless.


Submitted by: II Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD)
Story by: Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Charles E. McKelvey
Story Identification #: 20081924138

Their job is to prepare the Iraqi Police to become the sole protectors of what was once Iraq’s most vicious city, all while making sure the absence of insurgency remains.

Instead of conducting normal combat missions, the Marines of Echo Company spend their days training and patrolling with the Iraqi police, looking forward to the day they can return home and the Iraqis can take control.

“The majority of the work the Marines are doing deals with the IPs and making sure they’re ready to stand up on their own when the time comes,” said Gunnery Sgt. William C. Broadbent III, operations chief.

Up to this point, both the Marines and IPs are pleased with the progress, but certain issues that may have not been identified during initial training are still being corrected. This happens normally during one of the many daily joint patrols conducted by Marines and IPs.

“Most of the time the Marines teach or reinforce the basics, such as how to properly detain people, aspects of marksmanship and local policing of their neighborhood,” said Broadbent. “Every once in a while, we’ll come across issues for example many of the IPs we work with are young, between the ages of 18 to 25, and we found it necessary to enforce how important it is to treat the civilians properly, with respect.”

Some of the Marines who work with the IPs think they will be fully capable of handling the job when the time comes.

“The IPs that I’ve been working with for the past two months are not only extremely smart and willing to learn, but also have some advantages that coalition forces don’t have,” said Pfc. Darryl Griffith, assaultman. “This is their neighborhood and they know it well. Not to mention, local Iraqis are more likely to come up to them with information about insurgents or weapons caches than to coalition forces.”

When asked about what is the hardest part working with the IPs, most Marines answers are the same, the language barrier.

“Besides it being hard to communicate from time to time, the IPs pick up on things extremely fast,” said Griffith. “They see us doing something and they want to be just like us, so they work at it until they get it down.”

With all the time spent working together a bond, unimaginable a year ago, has also been created between the Marines and Iraqi people.

“The interaction between the Marines and locals that I’ve noticed in the past two months has really surprised me,” said Broadbent. “Both the Iraqis and Marines are acting a lot more friendly than I anticipated before coming over here. We get waved at every day on patrol. the locals, especially the kids, come up to us and shake our hands. It’s a refreshing thing to see.”

No matter what it is, the gifts from Marines to the Iraqi people are always appreciated, says Cpl. John Kratz, patrol leader.

“Most of the time, it’s the kids coming up to ask us for things,” said Kratz. “They’re always asking for chocolate or pencils, but they’re more than happy with whatever we have on us to give to them.”

The patrols operating out of Joint Security Station Falcon have yet to result in firefights or fierce confrontations, but the battle proven Marines of Company E still have all the capabilities to bring the hurt if need be.

“We have the capability to support most infantry operations whether it’s mounted or dismounted and to include raid-type missions,” said Broadbent. “In addition to our capabilities here at Falcon, we also have the ability to monitor patrols operating in or around the area of our four other substations.”

These Marines may not be engaging insurgents on a day-to-day basis and danger may not present itself in the form of bullets and bombings, but that still doesn’t make for an easy day’s work.

“The job we’re doing out here is still tough, probably mostly because it’s not kinetic,” said Broadbent. “You’re not going out every day and seeing the bad guy. The bad guy could be the man right next to you, he could be the man talking to you or he could be the man allowing his kid to shake your hand. So it’s hard to identify just who you are fighting. Having to fight a battle under these conditions is tough and I think the Marines themselves are doing an admirable job thus far.”

The environment the Marines work in allows danger to conceal its self around each corner and every window.

“The layout of this part of Ramadi is best described as half rural and half farmland,” said Kratz. “For the most part, the houses are vey close together and there’s a lot of them.”

With surroundings such as these, the main threats for the Marines come by the means of sniper fire and suicide borne improvised explosive devices.

“Although we let vehicles drive through our patrols we still remain alert and look for any indicators for a vehicle that may be suspicious,” said Kratz. “As for snipers, we’re always on the lookout for signs that may lead to a sniper position or the sniper.”

Company E, so far, has managed to not get into any firefights and any day that happens is a good day, said Broadbent. To some, this may sound like the end of a war, but to others, it’s the beginning of a new challenge.

“Ultimately by the time we leave here, I would like to see the Iraqis fully capable of running this area on their own,” said Broadbent. “We still have a long way to go and there’s a lot left to accomplish before this deployment is over, but I can see it happening.”

Marines earn bronze stars, respect

MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII (Jan. 9, 2008) -- When a Marine is under fire from enemy positions, this could be the time their actions determine whether or not they are “heroes.”


Jan. 9, 2008; Submitted on: 01/11/2008 03:30:49 PM ; Story ID#: 2008111153049
By Cpl. Chadwick deBree, MCB Hawaii

If asked, two Marines stationed here will say they were just doing their job.

Corporals Joshua P. Gainey and Travis Zabroski received Bronze Stars with combat devices here Jan. 9.

Both Marines deployed with the Island Warriors of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, last year in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and were recommended for the medal for their actions while deployed to al Anbar province.

Though the Marines had different experiences while deployed, both shared the same thought process after being injured during firefights.

“After I was wounded, I continued to lead my fire team,” Gainey said. “I didn’t think that I was injured bad enough. I still had movement, so I knew that I could still continue; besides, it’s my job.”

On Sept. 20, 2006, Gainey and his fellow Marines were tasked to provide security around a suspected improvised explosive device site in the city of Barwanah, Iraq, when they received fire from insurgents.

“When we were attacked we were focused on getting the Iraqi civilians out of the way,” said the 22-year-old Sheridan, Ind., native. “In that time I was hit.”

With his training in mind, Gainey, serving as a rifleman in Fox Company, 2/3 at the time, continued to lead his Marines until the insurgents broke off their attack.

Zabroski experienced a different encounter with insurgents.

On Oct. 25, 2006, the 22-year-old native of Thornton, Colo., was conducting a mounted patrol in southern Haditha, Iraq. His patrol was hit by, as he described, “the most well organized ambush they received.”

“We were on a mounted patrol in southern Haditha when we noticed a vehicle that had been following us the whole time,” said the rifleman, assigned to Echo Company, 2/3 at the time. “We stopped the vehicle to detain it, and that’s when it all began.”

Zabroski’s patrol began receiving fire from insurgents. In the midst of the firefight, he was hit by a round that went through his thigh. Despite his injury, he kept fighting.

“Our two other patrol leaders got hit,” Zabroski said. “When I saw that I thought to myself that somebody had to stay behind and make sure things were being done right, and my Marines didn’t stop when I got hit. They saw that I was hit and knew I wasn’t going to leave them so they kept right on, just as I wanted them to.”

Zabroski stayed through the entire 45-minute fight, despite his injury, though those minutes seemed like seconds to him.

“I know it probably happened for a long time, but the adrenaline made things go by really fast,” he said. “I honestly can’t tell you how long it lasted because it didn’t seem that long, but according to the citation and what the other Marines were saying, it lasted a long time.”

Neither Marine is currently assigned to 2/3, but Gainey, with Headquarters Company, 3rd Marine Regiment, and Zabroski, a block noncommissioned officer at the Base Rifle Range, were both honored by the battalion.

“It feels rewarding to be recognized for the things that we have done out there,” Zabroski said.
Gainey shares the same emotion with Zabroski.

“It’s a great honor to even have been put up for this award,” he said. “But I know that there are even more Marines that deserve it too.”

Marine ex-recruiters say higher-ups share blame

5 men say use of stand-ins to take tests was an established tactic

Five former Marine recruiters punished for fraudulently enlisting recruits from the Houston area said they were part of a web operating with tacit approval of some superiors.


Jan. 9, 2008, 2:48PM
Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle

The men confirmed they helped would-be recruits sneak past an exhaustive test by using a tactic established before they'd joined the Corps, served in Iraq or hit the streets as recruiters.

"I love the Marine Corps; I don't want to be spitting on the Marine Corps," said a former sergeant, who said he left the service after seven years to avoid facing military justice and the possibility of a bad-conduct discharge.

Eight others were removed from recruiting duty, according to Marine Corps officials, and were handed punishments including fines.

"The people in charge of me while on recruiting duty didn't stand up for me," he continued.

The scandal comes as the Marine Corps and other military services are under increasing pressure to find recruits as wars continue in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Marines are aiming to bulk up from about 184,000 troops to 202,000 by September.

The former sergeant acknowledged his own actions were improper but insisted higher-ranking Marines share the blame.

The Marine Corps said late Tuesday that a Marine with supervisory responsibilities over some of the disciplined recruiters was recently removed from recruiting duties, but it remains to be seen whether he will face any charges.

A staff sergeant "has been relieved of his recruiting duties and has been assigned administrative duties," said Capt. Beatriz Yarrish, a spokeswoman for the 8th Marines Corps District, which is based in Fort Worth and includes all of Texas and other areas.

"The investigation with regard to (the sergeant) has been completed, and the commanding officer is currently deciding what course of action he will pursue."

Yarrish wouldn't share details of the case.

Not implicated at first

All were apparently snared in an investigation that began in the spring and was made public in November after the Houston Chronicle learned nine Marine recruiters were snared for using stand-in substitutes to take a military entrance exam for potential recruits who might not otherwise qualify for service.

During the initial inquiry none of the nine disciplined recruiters implicated their superiors in the scam, said Capt. Carlos Sotomayor, who investigated the recruiters last April through June.

Any violation of the rules was unacceptable, Sotomayor said, and the recruiters had the chance to tell what they knew.

"We teach them the right way," he said. "If they choose to do it the wrong way, the Marine Corps will hold them accountable."

The Marine Corps punished four recruiters nationwide in 2006 for testing irregularities, said Maj. Wesley Hayes of the Marine Corps Recruiting Command in Virginia.

"It is extremely rare that these incidents happen," said Hayes.

The Marines are not alone in such problems.

In an entrance-exam scandal involving the Army National Guard in Arizona, test examiner Christine Thomas was sentenced to probation in July 2007 for a scam in which she conspired with recruiters to falsify results for about 70 applicants, according to court documents.

The Department of Defense is developing a system relying on electronic fingerprint readers as part of an effort to prevent potential recruits from using test takers to stand in for them.

The original investigation that snared the nine Houston-area recruiters was launched when someone noticed a signature on a test form didn't match with a signature on other recruiting documents, Sotomayor said.

Marine officials would not disclose the time period during which the stand-in test takers were used.

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, known as the ASVAB, is a lengthy test used to place recruits in military jobs to which they are best suited.

Results could determine whether a person meets a minimum threshold to enter the service, as well as whether that person marches and fires a weapon, sits at a desk or takes up other duties.

Unsure how widespread

The Marine Corps declined to release the names of the recruiters or discuss specific details of the scheme, which resulted in eight recruiters being disciplined, a ninth leaving the service, and an unclear number of people entering the military based on test scores that

weren't their own.

Although officials said they are unsure how widespread the practice was or where the recruiters learned of the technique, the fraud was traced to at least 15 incidents that went through the Military Entrance Processing Station in downtown Houston.

Of the nine recruiters, four worked at the Memorial City substation; two in Baybrook; two in Houston; and one in Lake Jackson, according to the Marines.

"We have pursued all individuals involved in the incident," said Sgt. Robert Jones, a public affairs spokesman for the Marine Corps Recruiting Station headquarters in Houston, which includes the men's superiors.

Yarrish said Marines who served as enlisted supervisors at the recruiting substations and their supervisory office when stand-in test takers were used have been advised not to talk to the news media at this time. A Chronicle request to interview them was denied.

'Wink, wink, nod, nod'

Five former recruiters contacted by the Chronicle confirmed stand-in test takers were used with the approval of higher-ups. Two who spoke at length asked their names not be published to avoid possible retribution.

Interviewed separately, they said they wanted to make it clear they didn't act alone or without approval.

The man who left the Marine Corps said he was a recruiter for more than two years and put about 65 people in the service but used test takers six times.

"It was one of those, 'wink, wink, nod, nod' — they knew," he said. "It was not an isolated thing — it is something that was going on for years and they all knew about it."

He said loyalty stopped him from reporting other Marines. The Marine Corps has declined to release any portion of its investigative report.

The other person who spoke with the Chronicle at length said he was fined and removed from recruiting duties but stayed in the service.

He recalled an incident in which a higher-ranking enlisted Marine said a "tester" was needed to get a recruit into the Corps.

When looking for a tester, sometimes they would find someone who had already been recruited and previously passed the test, or a friend or family member of a potential recruit, he said.

"I wouldn't say it was ordered, but it was like, 'Hey, this is the way things are done,'" the former recruiter said.

"If you are out there recruiting a lot, you are going to come across kids that this is the only push they need, and it is easy to do something," said the Marine, noting that anyone who enters the Corps still has to complete boot camp and an advanced training school.

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January 8, 2008

Giant Step Forward: Iraqi Police Assume Security Mission in Anbar Province City

COMMAND OUTPOST BAGHDADI — How many Marines does it take to secure Baghdadi? Last year, it took an entire company. Then, as the situation improved, that number dropped to a platoon. And now, with the onset of 2008, the grand total is zero.


Tuesday, 08 January 2008

The Marines of 2nd Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, have completely pulled out of Command Outpost Baghdadi. Fortunately for local citizens, their replacements are already hard at work.

In a monumental step toward Iraqi sovereignty, the Baghdadi police force has taken sole responsibility of security within the city limits -- the first to do so in all of Anbar Province.

"In the past, battalions were measured on how many battle positions they established during a deployment," said Marine Lt. Col. J.J. Dill, commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. "It showed they were moving out into the community, partnering with (Iraqi security forces) to make things happen. But in this stage of the counterinsurgency battle, it's not how many we put up, it's how many we take down."

The transfer of authority comes as a direct result of the Baghdadi police force's validation, which is determined by U.S. and Coalition forces.

"It's a checklist of where they're at," explained Marine Capt. Craig T. Douglas, commander of Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. "Can they run their own investigations, conduct security patrols? Are they self-sufficient?"

With their own battle space, the Baghdadi police face their toughest challenge yet. Douglas said they're ready for the mission. "They want the bad guys out of here just as much as we do," he said. "With logistical support from the government of Iraq, they should be OK."

If the Baghdadi police need emergency assistance, the Marines won't be far behind.

"We'll still be in an overwatch capacity," Douglas said. "But they know that, one day, we'll be gone. They'll need to be able to do things for themselves."

When the new police station is complete, it also will host city council meetings and other government functions.

"Many people back home think the 'Anbar Awakening' happened overnight," Dill said. "But where we're at today is the culmination of four years' worth of hard work and dedication by Marines and Iraqis, alike. I want this city to stop looking like it's under siege. This is a huge step toward the return to normalcy."

(Story by Cpl. Adam Johnston, U.S. Marine Corps)


Yellowcard rocks for 11th MEU in Kuwait

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait (Jan. 8, 2008) -- The Marines and sailors of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) arrived in Kuwait just in time to catch a live performance by the popular alternative rock band Yellowcard at the Oasis Recreation Center stage here tonight.


Jan. 8, 2008; Submitted on: 01/09/2008 10:50:17 AM ; Story ID#: 200819105017
By Cpl. Scott M. Biscuiti, 11th MEU

The 11th MEU (SOC), from Camp Pendleton, Calif., is conducting sustainment training here as part of their six-month deployment throughout the Western Pacific Ocean and Arabian Gulf region.

Three members of the band, Ryan Key, Sean Mackin and Ryan Mendez played acoustic version of some of their favorite hits throughout the night and sent a clear message to a packed crowd of service members.

“We support you and we want everyone to come home safe and soon,” said Key, the band’s lead vocalist and guitarist.

As the rockers took to the stage, the Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen erupted in applause as the band greeted the crowd.

“We’re really excited to be here and play for you guys,” Key said.

The Yellowcard members dedicated songs to the service members and commented on the great responsibility of young people in the military during the performance.

“I’m 28-years-old,” said front man, Key. “There are guys ten years younger than me working harder than I ever had to in my life.”

As the band played on, the crowd’s size and volume grew. Before the last song, the band invited the crowd to hang out and talk with them after the show.

Lance Cpl. Logan Grant, a Yellowcard fan and armorer with Company B, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 11th MEU (SOC), waited after the show to meet the band members.

Grant said that he was excited to see a poster announcing the Yellowcard concert the day he arrived in Kuwait.

“The performance was totally unexpected and was a great surprise,” he said. “I definitely give them props for taking the time and coming all the way out here and perform for us.”

The band signed autographs and took photos with Grant and everyone else who waited to see them.

As the grateful service members shuffled through the line, they thanked the band for their performance. But it was members of Yellowcard, who heaped thanks and praise to the troops.

“We’ve always felt that no matter what your political views are, it is important for us to be here and do something special,” said Key. “You’re doing your job and we appreciate that. It doesn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated. We are proud of you and proud to be here.”
For more information on the 11th MEU (SOC) visit their website at http://www.usmc.mil/11thmeu.

January 7, 2008

2 brothers also in band of brothers

Marine reservists glad to serve in same unit in Iraq

Brian and Mike Wiebe shared everything, from friends to a passion for football, while growing up in northwest suburban Rolling Meadows.


By Robert Channick | Special to the Tribune
January 7, 2008

On Monday, the brothers will return to a Marine Corps base in California to complete intensive training that will prepare both for a tour of duty in Iraq.

"I couldn't really be happier to be in with somebody like my own brother," said Lance Cpl. Mike Wiebe, 20. "It's comforting thinking that he's there with me."

Wiebe and his brother enlisted in a Chicago-based Marine Reserve unit -- the 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines -- which was called to active duty in September. The brothers had been home for the holidays but will return to the Twentynine Palms base before shipping out in a few weeks.

Mike Wiebe, the younger brother, enlisted on his 18th birthday while a senior at Rolling Meadows High School. He was an all-conference center in football but passed up a possible scholarship to Northern Illinois University in DeKalb to join the military. "That was a tough decision," he said. "But it was something I knew I wanted to do since the beginning of high school."

The two are assigned to different companies within the battalion. Trained for infantry, Mike Wiebe will be a convoy driver, and Brian Wiebe will be as a radio operator.

But brothers serving in the same combat unit is unusual, officials said.

"It's not commonplace, but it does happen every once in a while," said Maj. Jay Delarosa, a Marine Corps spokesman.

Lance Cpl. Brian Wiebe, 23, was a fullback on the 2003 National Junior College Championship football team at Harper College in Palatine. He was studying criminal justice at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago when he was inspired to enlist in 2006, after seeing the transformation in his younger brother.

"I went to his graduation from boot camp, and I decided that this is what I want to do," said Brian Wiebe, who also works as a part-time community service officer for Park Ridge police. "Seeing that change from when you go in as a civilian and you come out as a Marine, it's a big difference."

That the two will be deployed together is a comfort and a concern for their parents and younger brother, Patrick.

"Any parent would be worried," said their father, Brian Sr., 52, a longtime Rolling Meadows resident and superintendent of public works in Park Ridge. "At least I know they're there together."

Also in the same unit is Marcus Brightwell, a neighbor who played football with them in high school.

Mike Wiebe took advantage of the holiday leave to marry his high school sweetheart, Ashley Pera. After a civil ceremony last week and small reception. They are planning for a honeymoon getaway upon his return from Iraq.

Though Brian Wiebe considers his entire unit a band of brothers, he shares some of his parents' concerns -- at least for the newly married Mike, if not for himself.

"I think it would be tougher if I were at home," he said. "I'd rather be out there with him."

January 6, 2008

1/1 Marines sustain security

HABBANIYAH, Iraq (Jan. 6, 2008) -- Cpl. Christopher J. Sevigny led a patrol of Marines and Iraqi Police through the villages of Habbaniyah and met with their local neighbors among the withered and brown reeds and sturdy concrete houses, Jan. 1.


Jan. 6, 2008; Submitted on: 01/06/2008 11:32:09 AM ; Story ID#: 20081611329
By Cpl. Bryce C.K. Muhlenberg, 2nd Marine Division (FWD)

This patrol wasn’t staged from a regular patrol base or forward operating base, and the Marines didn’t meet up with the Iraqi Police along the way. They live together and departed the patrol at Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6’s Joint Security Station South Angels, together.

The squad leader and Marines with 1st Platoon, Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, have been living in a secure structure with Iraqi Police for more than three weeks. They have been integrated and act as one team.

“We live and conduct operations out of the JSS so, sooner rather than later, these people can stand up on their own and will no longer need our support,” said 1st Lt. Alistair E. Howard, first platoon commander

Sevigny, 21, led the patrol across canals, through fields and along the paths into town, stopping his men to talk with the locals about how their families and livelihoods are affected by the combined Marine and IP presence.

As his Marines set up security in a cul-de-sac, the Boston native explained, in between talk with locals, how important the patrols are for the community they have taken a vested interest in.

“Joint security patrols amongst the local populace ensure they are still comfortable with us and the Iraqi Police and with the security situation in their area,” said the 2004 Bayside High School graduate. “It also allows the Iraqi populace to have reassured confidence in their own police and allow the police and Army to become more familiar with their area of operation and the people they protect.”

These operations have been a success in an area that was once rife with insurgent activity, which forced Iraqi citizens out of the community, turning the area into a figurative ghost town, said Sevigny.

“There wasn’t anybody in this area,” he said. “The mosque was abandoned and nobody ever came out during the day. We were trying to hunt terrorists and there weren’t any Iraqi police, but since we pushed out the terrorists and started these type of operations, I’ve seen the Iraqi people take a proactive approach to improving their country by allowing the IPs and IA what they need to improve their communities.”

The Marines stopped by the local mosque and met with one of the speakers to have lunch during their patrol. It was a common dish, served hot and fresh; flat bread, potatoes, eggs and steaming hot chai, loaded with sugar. The Marines and Iraqis sat with each other, enjoying the company and conversation, after which, they began their patrol back to the JSS, where they now call home.

It had been a long patrol, but it had been successful. The community outreach operations have sustained the peace and security, brought to their area of operations by the Marines of the “Ready to Fight” battalion throughout their seven-month deployment.

As Sevigny’s patrol returned from the fields and another squad prepared to depart, Howard explained the battalion’s success.

“We’ve kicked out the insurgents.” said Howard. He then gestured toward the station and the resident Marines and IPs. “And all of this; the station, the patrols and the IPs, is to make sure they don’t come back.”

January 4, 2008

3rd LAAD tests battlefield skill in Djibouti

DJIBOUTI, Africa (Jan. 4, 2008) -- The leathernecks of Battery A, 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion tested their mettle against the Djiboutian landscape during a fire and movement exercise Dec. 26.


Jan. 4, 2008; Submitted on: 01/04/2008 03:37:43 PM ; Story ID#: 200814153743
By Sgt. Alec Kleinsmith, MCB Camp Pendleton

A classic staple in Marine Corps infantry training, fire and movement exercises encompass a variety of battlefield techniques, from proper rushing protocol to communication.

"We wanted to refresh the Marines in their tactics and ensure they're proficient with all the weapons systems," said 2nd Lt. Sung C. Park, a platoon commander with Battery A, 3rd LAAD. "Even though we're not an infantry unit, we want to stress that every Marine is a rifleman."

In addition, the Marines familiarized themselves with insertion and extraction operations via air support, said Park, from Chantilly, Va.

Riding in a CH-53 helicopter was a first for most of the Marines, many of whom joined the battalion as individual augments with varying occupational specialties.

"Overall we did well as a group, given the situation and the amount of time we had," said Cpl. David A. Claypool, a field radio operator with Battery A. "Since a large number of the Marines are augments who don't do this kind of training often, I think we did a good job."

Although impressed with the Marines' performance, Claypool knows that continuous practice will only strengthen their tactics and iron out minor kinks.

"We can improve more on our dispersion and communication," remarked Claypool, from New Plymouth, Idaho. "The enemy looks for big targets, so we don't want to give them one."

Quantico reserve unit ships out to Iraq War MARINES >> 'Band of brothers' among those deploying

Marine reservist unit based at Quantico departs for eventual deployment to Iraq

Tom Patsos fought back tears yesterday as he gave some last-minute advice to his son, who was setting out on his first deployment.


Date published: 1/4/2008

He told Brandon, a 22-year-old Marine corporal, to focus on the job in Iraq.

"Don't worry about your bills or your girlfriend or anything back home. We'll take care of all that," the father said, as he held his son close. "Just pay attention to your mission--and come back home."

Then, the elder Patsos told Brandon to do something that's been almost second nature to the younger man in recent years.

"Never be alone," he said. "Look out for each other."

Chances are, no members of this "Band of Brothers" needed to be reminded to stick together.

Six young men, who grew up within 10 miles of each other in Spotsylvania County, joined the Marines together in the wake of terrorist attacks.

Since then, they've been constant companions, as much as schedules allowed.

In 2005, the group was featured in a story in The Free Lance-Star. Yesterday, four of them set out for their first tour of duty.

They were Patsos and Jason Story, Chris Bowers and Adam Dinger, all lance corporals. The four were among about 150 members of Delta Company of the 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.

The reserve unit is based at Camp Upshur on Quantico Marine Corps Base. Most of its members live within 100 miles of the base.

Two other "brothers," Ricky Baffa and Corey Matus, are active-duty Marines.

Yesterday morning, more than 400 friends and relatives of the reservists gathered to say goodbye. For hours, they lingered in "the drill deck," an open area as big as a gymnasium in the Reserve Training Center.

The Marines fed the group breakfast, then lunch. A photographer snapped portraits of couples and family groups, then printed the pictures on the spot.

Three-fourths of Delta Company members were heading into a war zone for the first time, said Maj. Alex Remily, reservist commander.

Few looked more somber than the Moffett family of Amissville.

Lance Cpl. Shane Moffett seemed even younger than 18 as he sat on the top row of bleachers.

His parents, Mike and Sheryl Moffett, looked forlorn. His girlfriend, Tiffany Turner, wore a blue Virginia sweatshirt and black nail polish as she clung to his side. She told him she didn't want him to go.

His parents may have had longer to prepare for the deployment, but they struggled, too.

"I've known this has been coming since he was 10 years old," his father said. "It's all he ever wanted to do."

"I thought he might change his mind," said his mother. "I tried to get him to change his mind."

But the 18-year-old was certain he was doing the right thing.

"I feel like I'm serving my country," Moffett said. "That's what I'm meant to do."

The reservists will train in California and North Carolina, then head to the Al Anbar province in March. They'll stay in central Iraq at least through October.

Mary O'Herron hopes the unit is back in time for her daughter's first birthday on Oct. 15.

Yesterday, Cpl. Mike O'Herron clutched his little bundle of pink, Vera Kate, who's 21/2 months old. He repeatedly told his wife and parents, Sheila and Ray O'Herron of northern Fauquier County, that time would pass quickly.

"It will be over before you know it," he kept saying.

The younger O'Herrons considered themselves lucky. At least Mike was there for the birth of his first child; several men in his unit left behind pregnant partners.

The couple plan to videotape all the milestones Mike will miss. He's taking a portable DVD player with him to view the home movies.

At least his daughter won't remember any of the deployment, Mike said. That gave him and his wife some comfort on a day they were relying heavily on their faith.

"God will totally take care of us," Mary O'Herron said. "If he brings you to it, he'll get you through it--that's pretty much our motto right now."

January 2, 2008

3/5 back in Fallujah, participates in rebirth of once deadly city

FALLUJAH, Iraq -- (Jan. 2, 2008) -- It is hard to imagine someone never hearing of this city or of the house-to-house fighting that has taken place here since the war began. U.S. military officials called it “the heaviest urban combat since the battle of Hue City in Vietnam,” nearly 40 years ago.


Jan. 2, 2008; Submitted on: 01/02/2008 03:24:48 AM ; Story ID#: 20081232448
By Cpl. Ryan M. Blaich, II Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD)

During the early winter months of 2004, Fallujah was at the center of a joint U.S. military and Iraqi offensive against insurgents led by Marines of I Marine Expeditionary Force. Prior to the offensive operation inside the city limits on Nov. 7, there hadn’t been a U.S. military presence since April 2004. This gave insurgents time to build up defensive positions, booby trap houses, plant roadside bombs and scope out sniper positions from towering mosques. This made Fallujah overwhelmingly dangerous and deadly, and for more than a month, Marines and Iraqi commandos battled in the fiercest skirmishes this war has seen.

The operation, know as Al Fajr, “the dawn” in Arabic, ended Dec. 23, 2004. Now, three years later, some of the same Marines who were a part of the devastating clashes are back, this time to rebuild the city and help locals who have recently began moving back into their homes.

Arriving less than three months ago, Marines of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, are back to finish what they started. Although there is a dramatic change in the way they carry out daily operations compared to Al Fajr, they remain focused on keeping the enemy out of the city.

"When I left (Fallujah) in 2003, I thought I would never be back again," said Capt. Stuart Glenn, commanding officer for Company I, 3rd Bn.,5th Marines. "But things changed for the worst with the insurgents. Just talking to the fellas before I had come back, I was expecting a much more kinetic fight. But rather than trying to find (the insurgents) constantly and destroy them, we’re destroying their ability to operate in the city."

Within seconds of driving through the city, it is easy to see the proof of the past kinetic fights Glenn was expecting. Many of the buildings, residences and mosques flaunt the signs war. Most homes are scattered with bullet holes, sections of walls and mosques are gone, scorched vehicles still remain in alleyways and along the roadside. But like most of the Anbar province, this is all changing.

"In 2004, our main goal was clearing out the city and getting rid of all insurgent presence," said Sgt. Mario Tabarracci, an infantryman and a squad leader with 2nd platoon. "Now, the whole war has pretty much changed. I mean I haven’t even fired a shot yet and it’s been almost three months. There is not much insurgent activity going on. We’re just here to make the Iraqi people welcome us more and start rebuilding the city."

Before the battle during 2004, Fallujah was known as the city of mosques, with more than 200 spread throughout the city. Just before the initial invasion, there were an estimated 400,000 residents here. Many packed up and left as Marines began to prepare for battle in the rural, desert communities outside of the town. Those who stayed were assumed to be insurgents and were engaged as such.

Sgt. Cody Turpen, 22, a squad leader with 3rd platoon, was here three years ago as a lance corporal. As part of an infantry unit deployed to Fallujah, Turpen knew he’d see combat. He knew it was going to be tough to clear out a city full of terrorists. Even now, Turpen finds it difficult to describe what those days were like.

"I don’t know. Just, every day, there were battles every day,” he said. “We didn’t know what was going to happen day to day. There could be some guy in a house waiting on us. It just changed every day throughout our deployment."

As Turpen, a serious, stocky Marine, tried to think of words to portray that time in his life, he focused on the pavement a few feet in front of him. And for a moment, he fell silent and slowly shook his head back and forth. His eyes seemed to reflect muzzle flashes, men shouting, and the sweaty faces of close friends.

Turpen is a recipient of the Purple Heart. Shortly after entering the city during Al Fajr, Turpen was shot in his right leg while reloading his weapon. The wound did not hit any major arteries or bones and he was back in the fight within two weeks. Before the end of the operation, Turpen was hit a second time in his lower back by shrapnel from an enemy grenade.

This company, known as India, is full of war-hardened Marines, such as Turpen and Tabarracci. Combat veterans who are now team and squad leaders. Their past experiences make them invaluable to younger Marines on their first deployment, to the innocent Iraqi civilians going on with their lives, to commissioned officers who have many fragile projects to think about, and to the entire battalion with a staunch reputation to uphold.

"It’s a tremendous weight these Marines bare every day, understanding they are in a very complex environment. They have to go from handing out candy to shooting 7.62 down range with their 240 (Golf) in a heartbeat," said Glenn. "That’s pretty tough for an 18, 19-year-old kid."

The environment here is calm. The explosions and pop shots are few and far between these days. Now when Marines walk down the streets, they are attacked by children wanting attention, not terrorists.

This summer saw the first significant numbers of families moving back into their homes. Today, more than 300,000 Iraqis have moved back into the city. The security is at such a high, leaders from both sides are able to concentrate on the quality of life for the peaceful Iraqi people. From small services such as more trashcans on the streets to larger projects like reopening old cemeteries, building new water towers and rebuilding destroyed businesses, this battalion is working all day, every day to show the people of this diverse city they are here to help.

To Glenn, getting the locals to understand the Marines’ true intent is tremendously important.

"(The civil affairs group) has rebuilt mosques, which I think is incredible," he said. "It tells the people, 'You know what, we’re not at war with Islam. We respect that religion. As a matter of fact we want to rebuild your mosques because we respect what religion does for a culture.'"

Most Marines believe it is this cooperation and relationship with the locals in communities throughout the Anbar province that has kept terrorists out and causalities down. Keeping the peace while operating with stealth vigilance is what Marines are adapting to. Not everyone is an enemy, but the enemy seems to wait and attack when least expected.

"There is still a threat these Marines operate in," Glenn said. "To me, that’s just as courageous as the guys who were rolling through here, which many of these guys in this company did, in 2004. Every day these guys go out and there’s a threat and they can’t operate like there’s a threat in regards to the way they treat the people and the interaction they have to do in the street. It takes a lot of courage for these guys to go out and do what they do knowing there is somebody out there that wants them dead."

January 1, 2008

Father, son unite for Fallujah Christmas

FALLUJAH, Iraq (Jan. 1, 2008) -- On Christmas Eve, a military aircraft flew in from Baghdad landing at Camp Fallujah transporting special cargo for one fortunate Marine; his father.


Jan. 1, 2008; Submitted on: 01/01/2008 06:18:33 AM ; Story ID#: 20081161833
By Pfc. Brian D. Jones, 2nd Marine Division (FWD)

The chance to spend Christmas together was one they didn’t take for granted and were fully aware of what a privilege it was for them.

“I’d bicycle from Baghdad to be here,” said Paul Charbonneau, the father of 22-year-old, Owasso, Okla. native Cpl. Paul J. Charbonneau, a squad leader with 4th platoon, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6.

Paul, a senior manager for a telecommunications company working in Iraq, was happy to take full advantage of the opportunity to spend Christmas with his son in Iraq half way around the world from home.

Throughout the course of the past month, Cpl. Charbonneau made sure that he took the proper procedures to request and coordinate his father’s visit through his chain of command. Everyone was very supportive of having his father visit for the holiday, he said.

It’s the first Christmas Cpl. Charbonneau has spent away from home, but fortunately not completely without family. He said he realized how fortunate he was to have such an opportunity to spend time with his father, knowing how unlikely it was that any of his fellow Marines would be doing the same.

“It was probably a little strange for people to see us together,” said Paul. “We were hugging on the way back from the chow hall, so I’m sure that impressed a few people.”

As they enjoyed a Christmas dinner together, they caught up on family news and shared stories about their experiences in Iraq.

Cpl. Charbonneau’s introduced his father to some of the Marines that he had heard much about.

“It’s nice to put faces to the names,” said Paul.

“You hear the stories, but until you meet the Marine you don’t fully understand the personality behind the story,” he said.

Both have returned to Iraq on consecutive trips to continue with U.S. efforts to stabilize the country. Their jobs are completely separate, but similar. What they’re jobs have in common is they both carry the responsibility of training Iraqis.

Cpl. Charbonneau is on his second tour in Iraq. In recent weeks, he was promoted to the position of a squad leader. He’s responsible for leading his Marines on combat patrols through the market area of Fallujah, the busiest section of the city. He and his Marines maintain security and train Iraqi police in doing the same.

“It’s time for transition right now,” said Cpl. Charbonneau. “We’re training the Iraqi police on how to properly do everything and it’s really hard, but we’ll get it done, slowly but surely. We’ll get things back to where they can run everything by themselves.”

“It’s the same thing we’re doing with communications network,” said Paul, who is working toward the end of third trip to Iraq.

Mr. Charbonneau’s job entails training Iraqis to maintain cellular networks for the Department of State and Department of Defense across the country.

“The Ministry of Defense will eventually completely turn over to the Iraqis and we’re in the process of training them to make sure they can proficiently take over,” said Mr. Charbonneau.

Mr. Charbonneau went on to say that business has turned around in the country and attributed it to the job the service members, such as his son, are and have been doing.

“It doesn’t come accidentally,” he said. “It’s the right strategy and maneuver along the way. We’re seeing some positive here.”

Mr. Charbonneau admitted he encouraged his son’s decision to join the military in some way and said he couldn’t be prouder of his son.

“It really makes a difference in the long run with responsibilities and leadership traits you won’t get anywhere else,” Mr. Charbonneau said. “I’m always worried, but that’s part of the ballgame. I know he’s safe as he can be and I trust the Marines that he is with.”

A former naval man having served 10 years in the Navy working in communications, the older Charbonneau said his wife was no stranger to long distance relations with him because of deployments. But, it doesn’t make it any easier on her having both her son and husband abroad, though she was glad to know that the two of them got to spend the holiday together.

After the two days they spent together, they hope to see one another again back at home before either one of them return to Iraq again.

“It will be a whirlwind again,” Mr. Charbonneau said expressing the short passing they share.