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Source: CentCom.

05 December 2007
By Sgt. Wayne Edmiston
2nd Marine Logistics Group
.

AL TAQADDUM, Iraq – The AN/TSQ-120B is a temporary air traffic control tower used by Marines in expeditionary operations until a more sturdy structure can be built. Although designed for just 90 days of continual use, the one at Al Taqaddum Air Base has seen more than its share of sorties since it was raised during the early stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

After years of planning by previous deployed units, combat engineers with Marine Wing Support Squadron 272 were recently assigned to construct a new, state of the art tower. Working around delays caused by constant changes in the weather and aircraft flybys, the Marines poured the 30-by-30 foot concrete foundation and erected the prefabricated frame that will offer more capabilities to controllers.

The current expeditionary tower only allows controllers a 180-degree view of the airfield, but, once completed, the new one will provide an all-encompassing, 360-degree view, according to Master Sgt. Alexander M. Gutierrez, the Air Traffic Control Operations Chief for Marine Air Control Squadron 2.

“It lets (the controllers) work a whole lot better because they can see every aircraft they are working with,” said Gutierrez, a Kansas City, Kan., native. “It relieves a lot of pressure that comes with a challenging job.”

With more than 300 flights daily and 10,300 monthly, Al Taqaddum rivals most medium-sized commercial airports in the United States. The air traffic controllers here are responsible for ensuring the safety of all the inbound and outbound traffic, all of which is supporting the efforts of Multi National Force-West in Al Anbar Province.

The Marines working on the tower plan to have it completed within two to three weeks, according to the project’s staff noncommissioned officer in charge, Gunnery Sgt. Jason R. Gillepsie. “It takes considerable effort and a lot of skill to get something like this accomplished,” the Walla Walla, Wash., native said. And since it has taken this long to get a new tower started, the engineers said they are putting their skills to work and ensuring it is built to last above all else.

“This is going to be a structure that is going to be here for a while and a lot of people are going to see it and even work in it,” Lance Cpl. Michael A. Kemp, a combat engineer and Crawfordsville, Ind., native said. “It’s the gratification of getting to help your fellow Marines that I enjoy.”

Photo – AL TAQADDUM, Iraq (Dec. 1, 2007) – Marines inspect the metal frame of a new air traffic control tower. Combat engineers with Marine Wing Support Squadron 272 are currently constructing an air traffic control tower to create a better working environment for its air traffic controllers. Photo by: Sgt. Wayne Edmiston.

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Source: CentCom.

05 December 2007
by Staff Sgt. Travis Edwards
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
.

AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq (AFPN) – Airmen are improving the lives and operating conditions of Marines by constructing more than $9.8 million in aircraft shelters, taxiways and temporary shelters at Al Asad Air Base. Deployed in an “in-lieu-of” tasking in support of the 20th Army Engineer Brigade, 557th Expeditionary REDHORSE Squadron Airmen are completing numerous projects — from the design concept to completion — in a joint service environment.

“We’re here working on a Marine base, taking on an Army job while using Navy parts,” said Master Sgt. Richard Kapp, the 557th ERHS cantonments superintendent and acting first sergeant, deployed from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. “It’s an odd process.”

REDHORSE is an elite Air Force engineer squadron, whose main function is to take a strip of uninhabited land and turn it into a fully functioning base with running water, shelters and power. The REDHORSE team currently has 14 assigned projects. Six construction tasks are underway, and six more are scheduled to start soon totaling $9.8 million. One project recently completed was a $65,000 convoy briefing facility, which included three temporary shelters.

“Having this facility complete now allows Soldiers and Marines going out on convoys to have a place to brief before heading out on dangerous missions without having their mind distracted by the extreme cold or heat,” said Senior Master Sgt. Rob Townsend, the 557th ERHS superintendent deployed from Malmstrom AFB, Mont.

REDHORSE Airmen also are building other temporary-shelters throughout the base. “One of our sites will house more than $1.5 million in Meals Ready to Eat that normally would have been thrown away due to the high heat in the summer,” said Capt. Andy LaFrazia, the 557th ERHS spoke commander for Al Asad AB, deployed from McChord AFB, Wash.

The engineers have faced several challenges as a result of the nontraditional nature of the deployment. “Getting materials we need for a project is a problem on everyone’s mind. It’s a brand new system,” Captain LaFrazia said. “We are getting used to it and are pushing forward, keeping our mind on the mission.”

The Airmen are driven to improve the quality of life of their fellow military members. “Everyone here wants to make a difference,” Sergeant Townsend said. “We all have the same focus of getting the job done and done safely.” “We are building a better way of life for all the servicemembers who live and work in Al Asad,” said Senior Airman James Cox, a 557th ERHS electrician deployed from Shaw AFB, S.C.

Photo – Tech. Sgt. Chris Collins cuts a 2-by-6 piece of wood to use as a frame for a bench Nov. 24 at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. REDHORSE Airmen are currently working approximately $9.8 million in projects here. Sergeant Collins, a 557th Expeditionary REDHORSE utilities technician, is deployed from Minot Air Force Base, N.D. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Travis Edwards).

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Source: CentCom.

30 November 2007
By Cpl. Thomas J. Griffith
2nd Marine Logistics Group
.

AL ASAD, Iraq — Lance Cpl. Allen R. Rossi said the closer service members get to a possible land mine or improvised explosive device, the less worried they become. “You won’t feel a thing if it goes off that close,” explained the Camden, Ohio, native.

That’s why the members of the Obstacle Clearing Detachment walk a few meters ahead of everyone else. ‘Never step where we haven’t swept’ is their motto and they live by it, sweeping the dusty, trash-laden roads to ensure quick and safe passage for the convoys behind them.

The Marines of OCD, Engineer Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 4, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) embed with convoys to clear the roadways of debris, minefields or anything else that could impede the movement of vehicles and troops. “They’re basically putting themselves in harm’s way so that the convoy can move safely and isn’t slowed,” said Gunnery Sgt. Michael A. Leisure, the chief of Combat Engineer Platoon and a Parkersburg, W. Va., native.

The team also searches for improvised explosive devices and weapons caches, and when it finds them, calls in an explosive ordnance disposal team for disposal. “The main goal is to find anything before it goes off,” said Sgt. Levi A. Gundy, a detachment team leader and Keokuk, Iowa, native. “It’s hard to explain how to get comfortable with it.”

By trade, these Marines are combat engineers, a job that normally entails building structures, breaching entryways and providing security. Assignment to the clearing detachment is an additional duty that poses its own potential dangers, but Marines like Cpl. Jamison A. Elsmore, a detachment team member, said they prefer the unique challenge the OCD missions provide. “It’s one of the most important jobs out here,” explained the Plymouth, Minn., native. “Wherever anyone’s going, they’re going to need to arrive safely. We’re one of the few guys who can offer that to them.”

The hardest part of the job, according to Elsmore, is the difficulty of spotting many of the dangers they are looking for. Often times, trash lines the streets and the roads are covered with a fine sand the Marines refer to as moon dust. The small size of many of the objects they’re searching for also causes a problem. Improvised explosive devices vary in size and shape and littered roadways are ideal for concealment.

Leisure said the OCD Marines are “true professionals” and although many of the Marines are on their first deployment, they handle the tasks assigned to them without hesitation. “They’re very efficient and by the time they come (back to Iraq), they’ll be maturing corporals teaching their Marines the same things,” he said. “We like to have fun, but as soon as we cross that (entry control point), it’s game on.”

Photo – AL ASAD, Iraq – Lance Cpl. Allen R. Rossi sweeps a metal detector in search of wires, improvised explosive devices, ordnance or anything that would impede the movement of the Seabees of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 15. Rossi and the other members of the Obstacle Clearing Detachment are responsible for clearing anything that would slow down a convoy. Rossi is a combat engineer and OCD team member with Combat Engineer Platoon, Engineer Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 4, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward). Rossi is a Camden, Ohio, native. Photo by Cpl. Thomas J. Griffith.

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Source: US CentCom.

25 October 2007
By 1st Lt. David Herndon
Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Public Affairs
.

NAGAD, Djibouti — A culmination of smiles and laughter filled the air as Airmen and Marines provided live entertainment, toys and water to the residents of Nagad village, Oct. 23 [2007].

Nagad was the site of a Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa [CJTF-HOA] civil affairs engagement, teaming Airmen of the United States Central Air Forces’ Expeditionary Band and Marines of the 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion. The event marked the second time in October the two services joined together to provide humanitarian assistance to Djiboutian villages.

“I think it’s great that we can bring some of our culture to our friends here in Djibouti and share goodwill with our neighbors,” said Marine Capt. Christopher Crim, 3rd LAAD Batter B commanding officer. “Regardless of service, we are all on the same team, the American team, and we look to once again spread our goodwill to our friends who are so kind and gracious to host our efforts.”

The CENTAF Band’s mobile expeditionary performance group ‘Live Round,’ currently based out of Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, performed a blend of current and classic rock ‘n’ roll musical selections to entertain the crowd of nearly 200 villagers, primarily consisting of school-aged children.

“We all speak different languages, but music seems to be something that unifies us all,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Joseph Grasso, CENTAF Band superintendent. “It is important that we reach kids at this age so we can let them know what America is all about and what we hope to accomplish in the region, which is to deter extremism.”

For the Marines, who are deployed to CJTF-HOA from Camp Pendleton, Calif., this type of engagement is an additional mission to their primary duty of providing security to Camp Lemonier.

“Tactically, civil affairs engagements are important to us because they accomplish the important goal of ensuring the local population views our presence as a benefit to them,” said Lt. Col. A.F. Potter, 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion commanding officer. “Civil affairs engagements are not only about economics and security; they are also about friendship-building, mutual trust, and genuine commitment. Targeting these things will create security and foster stability.”

The band spent nearly two hours performing for villagers before 3rd LAAD Marines began passing gifts and water to village elders and children, an experience enjoyed by all.

“Everyone knows that the Americans are very open here in Djibouti,” said Idriss Akmed Khayre, Nagad Village chief. “[CJTF-HOA] military members do so much good for us and we appreciate it. I look forward to working with [CJTF-HOA] again in the future.”

According to Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Paul Eschliman, Live Round’s chief vocalist, the event served as a creative way for Airmen and Marines to work together to prevent conflict and extremism by fostering positive relationships in the local area. “This type of event will pay long-term dividends that most wouldn’t believe,” said Eschliman. “Making friends now will help our relationships grow exponentially in the distant future.”

Civil Affairs engagements, similar to the Nagad concert, serve as opportunities for CJTF-HOA personnel to reduce the specter of conflict, war and extremism in the Horn of Africa. “We know that simply throwing money at a problem will not yield the desired results,” said Potter. “We must be truly genuine in our efforts to make friends and civil affairs is our ounce of prevention.”

CJTF-HOA is a unit of United States Central Command. The organization conducts operations and training to assist partner nations to combat terrorism in order to establish a secure environment and enable regional stability. More than 1,500 people from each branch of the U.S. military, civilian employees, coalition forces and partner nations make up the CJTF-HOA organization. The area of responsibility for CJTF-HOA includes the countries of Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Yemen.

Photo – Air Force Tech Sgt. Michael Mason, a vocalist with the U.S. Central command Air Force’s expeditionary band, Live Round, sings ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ for villagers in Nagad, Djibouti, Oct. 23. The band is touring Djibouti to perform a series of morale and community outreach concerts. Photo by 1st Lt. David Herndon.

Great job, guys. I’m very proud of you.

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Source: US CentCom.

23 Sept 07
By Cpl. Zachary Dyer
2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (FWD)
.

AL ASAD, Iraq — History is a big part of the Marine Corps, every Marine is taught to honor the legacy of the first Leathernecks in 1775. Tradition has permeated so far into the Marines that it is not just the history of the Corps that Devil Dogs honor, but the feats of individual units as well.

Marines in one of the oldest heavy helicopter squadrons in the Marine Corps, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362, are upholding a tradition of excellence that has extended almost 25 years with 70,000 Class A mishap-free flight hours.

“Its very rare,” said Lt. Col. Brian Cavanaugh, the Ugly Angels’ commanding officer. “Hardly any squadrons get this high, so we’ve been fortunate to reach this milestone. It’s a good mark, and we want to keep it going. Especially in combat, because it’s not like flying at home in the states, it’s desert (operations) with a high operational tempo. To be able to continue to do things safely is a testament to the high caliber of the Marines.”

The squadron’s mishap-free streak, which started March 28, 1983, is an accomplishment that has taken years of hard work, according to Maj. Richard Matyskiela, the HMH-362 operations officer.

Part of that hard work was completed in combat. Since they arrived in Iraq the squadron has flown just over 2,800 hours, according to Matyskiela, a Silverdale, Pa., native.

“That’s four to five times what we fly back in (Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii),” said Matyskiela. “Every aircraft out here is at about 60 hours per month. And along with that, our maintainers are doing a few years worth of maintenance out here. In six months out here they are probably getting a good two years worth of maintenance under their belt. Out maintainers are doing a phenomenal job out here.”

The “Ugly Angels” of HMH-362 have a deep history that dates back 55 years. They have the proud distinction of being the first Marine aircraft unit to deploy in support of the Vietnam War, and they also currently have the oldest CH-53D “Sea Stallion” in the Marine Corps, according to Cavanaugh.

“This squadron has a rich history,” said Cavanaugh, a Baltimore native. “We celebrated our 55th anniversary this year back in April. So this is one of the older squadrons in the Marine Corps. This squadron was in Vietnam, it was in the first Gulf War, it’s been to Haiti. So there is a lot of tradition, a lot of heritage, within the unit. This is just another benchmark to show that this squadron is a very, very good squadron. One of the best in the Marine Corps.”

The Marines of HMH-362 operate the same way they have done for the last 55 years, by the book. It is the dedication of the junior Marines that has allowed the Ugly Angels to continue the streak as long as they have, according to Capt. Nick Turner, an HMH-362 pilot and the flightline officer in charge.

“The pilots and the officers don’t do it around here,” said Turner, an Elliot, Iowa native. “I mean, sure we give a little guidance, but it’s the sergeants and below. They are the pulse of the squadron. Our frontline is out there on the flightline making sure that the aircraft are mission ready. And they do it with a smile on their face, without a complaint, every day. It’s impressive.”

Turner, who is the pilot credited with flying the mission that helped the squadron reach the latest milestone, attributes the Marines’ pride in their squadron and in maintaining the reputation they have built over the years to their success.

“They have an enormous sense of pride, not only in this aircraft but in this squadron,” explained Turner. “They know the great history of this squadron, I mean it goes all the way back to 1962 in Vietnam. My dad was an original Ugly Angel back in 1965 in Vietnam. They have an enormous amount of pride, not only in the aircraft and the history, but in preserving it.”

From the moment a Marine arrives at the squadron, they are taught the history of the Ugly Angels, and they become part of the Ugly Angels family, according to Lance Cpl. Jorge Toledo, a crew chief with HMH-362

“It definitely motivates us, especially when we watch old videos of the squadron that date back as far as Vietnam,” said Toledo. “As the years went along, we’ve always remained Ugly Angels. It’s just the way we do things. It’s 100 percent all the time, no less. Whenever you feel down you think about what the people did that were here before you, and it motivates you to keep on going, to work that much harder to get things done.”

So the Ugly Angels are celebrating their latest achievement, and looking forward to adding more to their long list of accomplishments.

“People come and go, but the way the Ugly Angels do things remains the same,” said Turner. “This patch has stayed the same the whole time. Regardless of who’s been here, nothing’s changed.”

Photo – Capt. Nick Turner, a pilot with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362, skillfully pilots a CH-53D “Sea Stallion” through a turn during a mission, Sept. 15. The Marines of HMH-362, the “Ugly Angels,” have racked up over 70,000 Class A mishap-free flight hours. Photo by Cpl. Zachary Dyer.

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Source: US CentCom.

19 Sept 07
By Sgt. Anthony Guas
2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward)
.

AL QAIM, Iraq — Just like a guide dog helps a blind person or a ground guide assists a heavy equipment operator, air traffic controllers are on the ground to help pilots. Wherever there are Marine Corps aircraft[s] flying, there are air traffic controllers ensuring that the pilots know when they can take off or land, how to approach the airfield, or what is in the airspace.

For Al Qaim, those are the controllers of Marine Air Traffic Control Mobile Team for Marine Air Control Squadron 1, Detachment C.

“The mission of any air traffic controller, whether it be back in the states or here, is the expeditious flow of traffic into or out of our airspace,” said Staff Sgt. Jimmy Houser Jr., MMT leader for MACS-1, Detachment C. “Here it’s all helicopters, we don’t have a runway for any fixed wing aircraft.”

The controllers are responsible from the surface of Al Qaim to 3,000 feet, 5 nautical miles from the center of the airfield. They are split into six-hour shifts in which they land and depart as many as 20 helicopters a day.

“We de-conflict any type of flight into or out, (unarmed aerial vehicles), weather balloons all that stuff,” said Houser.

Since the size of Al Qaim does not accommodate fixed wing aircraft, the controllers spend their time dealing with just helicopters. The limited number of aircraft operating in and out of Al Qaim makes the operational tempo for the controllers a little slower than usual.

“The traffic here is slow, we do just over 40 operations a day,” said Houser. “Most of the Marines are from (Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.) and I’m from (MCAS Yuma, Ariz.), which are two of the busiest airports in the Navy and Marine Corps so we are used to 40 operations in an hour and we do that in a 24-hour period here.”

The slower operational tempo allows Marines like Cpl. Blaze Crawford, who previously worked in radar, an opportunity to wet his feet working in the tower.

“It’s new, when I first started I didn’t know the aircrafts flight and where they were going to come in, I had no clue what was going on because I never see them in radar,” explained Crawford. “When I’m in the radar room I’m in a box, I don’t see them, they are a dot. It’s exciting to actually see what I’m doing.”

Although the operational tempo may be slower, the Marines are determined to give their best effort by increasing the quality of air traffic control that they provide.

“We’re doing great so far,” said Sgt. Nicholas Foster, air traffic controller, MACS-1. “I’m glad that it’s such a small group of guys. It could be bad because there could be one or two that don’t know the job, but we kind of lucked out in that we are all kind of seasoned. Nobody has to baby-sit anybody, everyone knows their job, they know what they have to do, they know the Marine Corps.”

While battling the normal difficulties of a deployment, the ATC Marines also have an added number of obstacles that they must hurdle on a daily basis.

“What makes the job difficult here is limited visibility and limited equipment,” explained Houser. “Basically the austere environment and the wear and tear of the gear.”

Despite the lack of accommodations to do their job, the Marines are adjusting to their environment and compensate for the shortfalls by increasing their proficiency in other areas.

“The Marines study the airspace as much as they can,” explained Houser. “There are a couple of different things that you can learn around here.”

Whether it is reading manuals or memorizing the rules for the airfield, the controllers are always working hard to ensure that they are a positive source of information for the aircraft pilots.

“There is a manual that teaches you everything about the airfield, a course rules brief that tells all the pilots how to get into and out of the airspace, what we expect them to do,” said Houser. “As long as we continue to train to everything in the airspace, train on the radio, train on the equipment to pass information whether it be mIRC (Internet Relate Chat), (e-mail), that’s how we compensate for some of the shortfalls.”

Another service that the controllers provide is navigational aid when there is inclement weather or limited visibility. To ensure that the navigational aid is always ready the MMT has a technician on call 24 hours a day.

“We provide tactical aid navigation for aircraft to find the airfield in case of inclement weather or some type of outage or shortage,” Houser explained. “(The tactical aid mechanic) provides service to that (system) 24 hours a day.”

Although they are a small air traffic control team and their mission is smaller than usual, the Marines know that they are having positive influence on the mission in Al Qaim.

“I think its great that we’re out here, normally if there is any type of a Marine aircraft flying there’s always a Marine air traffic controller that’s talking to them,” explained Houser. “We do play a vital role when it comes to the (medical evacuations), getting them out as quick as possible. That’s probably the best feeling that we have, knowing that there’s troops in contact, we need to get a gunship out or there’s somebody injured and we need to get them medevaced into or out of the airspace.”

Photo – Sgt. Nicholas Foster, air traffic controller for Marine Air Control Squadron-1, looks on the mIRC (Internet Relate Chat) for information on incoming flights to Al Qaim, Aug. 31, 2007. Foster is part of the Marine Air Traffic Control Mobile Team that manages the airspace in Al Qaim. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anthony Guas.

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29 Aug 07
By Cpl. Ryan M. Blaich, II
Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD)
.

HABBANIYAH, Iraq – When a group of American military advisors deployed to Iraq and took over a small combat outpost on the outskirts of town recently, they knew the task ahead might get tough, but each day would be rewarding. The Marines and sailors that make up Military Transition Team 13, working alongside the 1st Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division, are increasing the security of the area and the quality of life for local residents as well.

They operate out of a dusty, war-faced outpost named the OK Corral. They usually work long hours, patrolling streets with Iraqi soldiers or standing post overlooking the Euphrates River. They cook each meal themselves, because there is no chow hall to feed the 14 Marines, two corpsmen and company of Iraqi soldiers. They have learned to adapt, dealt with sweltering heat and braved the roadways of a foreign land.

Many of the men of MTT 13 have been to Iraq before, making them ideal candidates for an advisory team. The soldiers that make up 1st Battalion are veteran war fighters as well; hardened by battles past, experienced in combat operations. Perhaps that is why the people in this area trust the Iraqi soldiers.

Habbaniyah acts as a corridor in a crucial area, known as Jazerria, located between the once terrorist safe heaven cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. Nowadays, people go about their lives freely while searching for jobs, attending schools, plowing fields and shopping in crowded markets without fear of being shot in the crossfire of combat.

“The IAs have won the trust of the people,” said Cpl. Jason Syvrud an infantryman attached to MTT 13. “People see that they’re here, the area is safe, they are happy that their families aren’t at risk anymore. The IA is here to help the whole country and get this back on its feet. The people are loving to see the change. The country as a whole is trying to rebuild.”

Syvrud is only 22, but is currently serving his third tour in Iraq. He has been in cities where it was difficult to trust the citizens. But now he has seen a significant change in the war and in the people. He feels pride in his advisory role, knowing each day is bringing comfort to strangers he once felt uncomfortable around.

“I’ve seen in the three times I’ve been here this country has done a complete 180. It’s gone from everyone not knowing what to do and being scared to do anything, to them starting to come out and finding out what a democratic society would be like,” he said. “Now, they are really trying to get involved. They are building their schools up, they’re building up the mosques, their homes. They’re trying to find jobs. It looks more and more like a typical American rural area. The majority of the people seem happy. They’re doing what they have to do to survive and building a life out of this.”

Safety is what brings out the smiles and trust of the townspeople Syvrud said. The locals are involved with the Iraqi Army now. They help locate possible terrorists. They have begun to rebuild their community by fixing up schools, roads and mosques. The province is still early in reconstruction efforts, but the transition seems to be working as planned.

Getting the soldiers to understand the benefits of civil engagements, such as the civil medical engagements, is a priority for MTT 13 team chief, Lt. Col. Thomas Hobbs. Transition teams have assisted in several CMEs, which provide medical care to people who would normally have to travel to Ramadi to see a doctor. With more than 16 years of experience in the Marine Corps, Hobbs said focusing on civil affairs can not only counter the insurgent’s propaganda, but win the hearts and minds of law-abiding citizens.

“This battalion tends to be very focused on conventional operations. What I mean by that is in a counter-insurgency environment they are enamored with cache sweeps, security patrolling,” Hobbs said. “They should be focusing on civil affairs information operations and focusing on the population as a whole. The security level right now allows for that, so I’m trying to teach them to think in that manner.”

Hobbs praised the Iraqi company commanders for understanding the impact civil affairs has on the war efforts. “They have been very willing to get out and meet the population and doing civil affairs projects on their own, even without money. We’ve been really successful in getting the companies to move and they’re actually initiating a lot of things I want to change or make better,” he said.

Hobbs said the predominately Shiite Army has been received with open arms by the Anbari locals, who are mainly Sunni. A huge reason for this may lie in the idea of getting his team of advisors to stress the importance of making the population comfortable to Iraqi leaders. It is his philosophy that if the people are happy and satisfied with their life, then the terrorists will no longer have the ability to move freely within the community. He said the company and platoon leaders have begun to buy into the civil affairs mindset. As a result, the city has not seen any escalation in force in more than two months.

The soldiers of 1-3-1 can fight, that has been proven during the past year and a half of combat operations. Hobbs said the battalion is known throughout the Iraqi Army for its ability to engage and defeat the enemy, and that is what the terrorists should realize. The mission now is to concentrate on keeping this rural area safe and prospering. The smiles on children are evidence enough that the plan is working.

“I feel proud when I look around and see the kids and people smiling,” Syvrud said. “They’re happy when the Army and Marines come walking around, they aren’t afraid of us anymore. They’re happy with themselves, they’re happy with the environment around them and they’re striving to get better. They’re not just satisfied with things, they want it better, just like any American does.”

Photo – Lt. Col. Thomas Hoobs, team chief for Military Transition Team 13, talks to members of the Iraqi Security Forces during an inspection of a local bridge. Keeping roadways safe and drivable not only helps navigation of anti-terrorist traffic, but is part of a wider ranging civil affairs mission of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Iraqi Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division.

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28 Aug 07
By Sgt. Andy Hurt
13th MEU
.

NEAR KARMAK, Iraq – The strength of any democracy is the equal representation of various cultural interests; thus, the power of a military force can be measured by diversity as well. American culture takes pride in boasting equal opportunity in public service roles. Iraqi culture mirrors this attitude, and the warriors of the Iraqi Army’s 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 1st Division – currently conducting a force integration with Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines – are a simple, flawless example of strength in diversity.

Speaking from an office at Combat Outpost Golden in Al Anbar Province here, Iraqi Col. Ali Jassimi, 1/2/1 commanding officer, explained the cultural representation within his unit. “My staff is Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish. We have officers from many different areas of Iraq; Mosul, Baghdad, Ramadi – and we’re all here working together,” he said. “There are many people around the world who would think this would be a problem. We are a perfect example that it is not.”

Jassimi, a native of Southern Iraq, said there is a preconceived notion in some global media circles that various sectarian issues create problems within the new Iraqi Army. To combat this, he said, he avoids prejudice by ignoring religious preference altogether. “When I get a new officer, I do not ask him if he is Shiite or Sunni. I don’t care.” The recent history of the diverse organization’s success in Falluja (a primarily Sunni area), conducting security and stability operations is a testament to the camaraderie of junior enlisted troops (Juundis) who come from all walks of life, said Jassimi.

“We’ve had great success in Falluja, and it’s because of the Juundis– they’re all brothers.” The colonel went on to explain that junior enlisted troops in his battalion ignored sectarian issues during operations. “If anyone needed help, we helped them. We visited mosques, and no matter if it was Shiite or Sunni, we prayed with them.”

Captain Mustafa Al Jaaf, a Kurdish staff member of 1/2/1, echoed his commander’s sentiments. “We are from all over Iraq, and it makes a stronger force. You can see now Falluja is a much safer place.”

Originally from Ramadi, Capt. Basim Ashumari said his anger over foreign fighters – Al Qaeda subordinates historically from Egypt, Jordan and Syria – caused him to join the new Iraqi Army and fight for his countrymen, no matter what religion they were. “In Ramadi, I saw men from another country come and kill civilians, so I decided to join the new Iraqi Army. No matter what religion they are, these officers here are on a mission to keep the Iraqis safe. We are one team with one goal.”

Marine Lieutenant Col. Woody Hesser, Military Transition Team commander, said within the MTT, the ethos of “one team, one fight” is clearly evident during joint operations. Hesser and his team have shadowed 1/2/1 since January, and he says with each patrol a shared interest in Iraqi security is obvious. “We’re here fighting a war, and when we go on patrol, it’s one fight. There have never been any sectarian issues,” said Hesser. “Really, it’s almost like another Marine unit taking over, but it’s not about ‘Marines’ and ‘Iraqis,’ it’s about good guys versus bad guys.”

As Marines have always kept close the ethos of “brothers in arms,” the Iraqi Army shares the exact ideal. During a nightly dinner with 1/2/1 staff, uniforms and language are the only visible difference between 3/1 Marines and Iraqi Army forces here. The staff laughs, jokes and singles out members with good-natured scrutiny. At the end of the night, they shake hands and go on with business. Officers constantly duck in to the commander’s office to have forms signed and plans authorized. The parallels between US and Iraqi forces are striking.

For the Iraqi Army, however, it is not a mimicking act – it is an old way of life. “I’m from the north and I’m a Sunni,” began Maj. Istabraq Ashawani. “That man over there,” he gestured, “is a Shiite. That man over there is Kurdish … everyone in this battalion is a family. We eat together, sleep together and pray together. Anything you hear on the news about us being ‘different’ is not true,” he exclaimed. “Ask any Juundi or officer … we’re all the same.”

Photo – Colonel Ali Jassimi, commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army division, speaks proudly of the ethnic and cultural diversity within his unit. Despite claims by liberal media that the IA is one-sided, Jassimi said, his battalion is a perfect example of strength in diversity. Photo by: Sgt. Andy Hurt.

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This is one article I just could not pass up. It is absolutely NEWSWORTHY, and you will never read about it in the news. For this reason, I am going to have two posts to Linkfest today. Thank you for induging me, and please read it. (http://www.linkfests.us/cgi-bin/.track.cgi/2873)

These are the post I’ve backtracked to: Webloggin, The Crazy Rants of Samantha Burns, Planck’s Constant, DeMediacratic Nation, Adam’s Blog, Right Truth, Pursuing Holiness, Conservative Thoughts, Nuke’s News & Views, Leaning Straight Up, Cao’s Blog, Conservative Cat, Woman Honor Thyself and third world county, thanks to Linkfest Haven Deluxe.

These are the sites and their posts that have trackbacked to this post:

  • The Amboy Times: CAIR: Media Cowers in Face of Islamist Threat.
  • The Florida Masochist: Knucklehead of the day award.
  • Faultline USA: America at a Crossroads –The Missing European Anti-Americans.
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    22 Aug 07
    Cpl. Rick Nelson
    2nd Marine Division
    .

    BARWANAH, Iraq – Progress continues to be made in Al Anbar Province. A city once threatened by small arms fire, populace intimidation, improvised explosive devices and snipers is experiencing a renaissance.

    This renaissance is due to the continued presence of the Marines assigned to Alpha Company, Task Force 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2 in and around the town, and the recent build up of Iraqi Security Forces.

    “When we first got here things were running very slow and not many stores were open, but now a lot of new businesses are opening and people seem to be a lot more friendly and helpful with us,” said Sgt. Anthony C. Galloway, a section leader with Weapons Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2.

    Galloway, a veteran of the Battle of Fallujah has seen combat at its most intense but was still a little reserved upon his arrival in country. “You never know what to expect when entering a combat zone,” said Galloway . “I was imagining it was going to be just like my first deployment to Iraq, which was all out war and nothing but combat.” This deployment has been less intense than what Galloway experienced two years ago, but there have been numerous challenges faced by 1/3. It takes time to win over the local populace, but Galloway has noticed a big change since Alpha Company first arrived here and is impressed by the way the local people have taken to his Company.

    “You can tell a lot by the attitude of the local people,” said Galloway. “They give information to us about terrorists or suspected insurgents, when they couldn’t before for fear of their lives. With the stability of the city though, the local people have such freedom now to give the Marines information.”

    Lance Cpl. Bryan P. Stutts, a machine gunner in the Company, has also noticed how the local populace seems to be much more accepting of the Marines. “They seem to be very thankful for the security we provide. A lot of times they will come out to say hello, or give us sodas while we’re on a patrol,” said Stutts. “That’s the one thing that stands out, the people. This is my first deployment, but I didn’t expect the people to be so friendly, they’re awesome.”

    Stutts said although the situation has improved, he still remains aware of the enemy. “Even though I feel safe here, I still keep my guard up and keep the mindset in case the time comes when we do get contact,” said Stutts, a Texas native. “You never know when you may go around a corner and get blown up or take contact.”

    Cpl. Anthony P. Mitchell, an intelligence analyst with the Company, said due to a berm that was built around the city in December as a part of Operation Majid, the IEDs inside the city are rare. “A lot of the caches were found along the edge of the Euphrates,” said Mitchell. “We don’t see them nearly as much due to the increase of the company’s patrols in the area.” Mitchell went on to explain another reason for the success seen today was due to the units who operated in Barwanah prior to 1/3’s arrival.

    “The Marines from second Battalion, third Marines and second Battalion, fourth Marines had a big mission to secure the city. By the time Alpha Company arrived, it already had much, not all, of the qualities and stability we see today,” said Mitchell, a native of Burlington, Colo. “The problem we faced when we arrived here was maintaining that stability and building the Iraqi Police and Army force.”

    Prior to April, the Iraqi police force in Barwanah was minor, both in size and impact. However, with the help of the local community leaders, specifically the mayor and city council chairman, the force’s size has increased significantly. It currently stands at 150. Their presence, as much as the Marines, has been a driving force behind this new found progress.

    “The Iraqi Police in Barwanah are all locals from the area, so they’re able to know who the bad guys are,” said Mitchell. “This makes it a lot easier for us when it comes time to detain the people because the Iraqi Police know exactly who they are and where to find them.”

    The population is now able to enjoy its city and spend more time outdoors. “At night, children will play soccer until the 11 p.m. curfew. I don’t know many American parents who would feel comfortable allowing their eight or nine-year-old child to stay out that late,” said the 21-year-old Mitchell. There has been a strong connection made between the Marines, sailors, Iraq Security Forces, and people of Barwanah. This connection has shut down the insurgency within the city and uplifted progress.

    Photo – Sgt. Anthony C. Galloway, section leader, 1st Squad, 4th Platoon, Alpha Company, 1/3 briefs his Marines while holding security at a bridge in Barwanah. Photo by: Cpl. Rick Nelson.

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    20 Aug 07
    By Gunnery Sgt. Eric Johnson
    2nd Marine Division
    .

    HADITHAH, Iraq – The morning of July 4th started out like any other day inside the Hadithah Police Station. The Iraqi Police conducted morning police call, uniforms were set straight, and reports were prepared. The Marines of the Hadithah Police Transition Team (PiTT) gave guidance to their Iraqi counter-parts, making corrections wherever necessary. As the heat began filling the building, the anticipation for the day’s events grew.

    Within the building’s multi-purpose room, the morning formation lined up. However, the formation wasn’t made up of Iraqi police officers standing at attention, ready for drill practice. In fact, no one was standing at attention. July 4th was the first Youth Soccer Day held at the Hadithah Police Station.

    Over 200 local children gathered at the police station for a chance to play soccer with their police officers. The police and children were equally excited for the day’s festivities. The first hour was spent posing for pictures. After the initial photo op and introductions, soccer balls were passed out. Through donations from friends and family back in the United States and from some Iraqi Police Officers, over 100 soccer balls were given to the kids. Along with the soccer balls, hundreds of toys, stuffed animals, and backpacks were also donated.

    Lieutenant Col. Mazher Hasan Khazal, the Hadithah Police Chief said, “today is a great day, not only for the Iraqi Police, but for all of Hadithah. We will never forget what our Marine brothers have done to make this possible.” The current Iraqi Police Station is actually a hardened building, which once served as the city’s Youth Center. The Marines and Iraqi Police took over the building in October 2006. For the past several years, there hasn’t been a need for a youth center, most of the city’s children would rarely go outside.

    The need for some type of outlet for the kids during their summer school break, a time when terrorists recruit young children, prompted the PiTT Marines to come up with a youth-oriented soccer program. Members of the PiTT team were sitting around talking about their families one night with the Iraqi leadership. They tried to explain the Boy and Girl Scouts of America to the police chief, and he asked if they could help set something like that up in Hadithah. That’s when the PiTT came up with the idea for a soccer camp. The police chief loved the idea

    Friendliness from the locals toward Marine and Iraqi Forces over the last few years has been minimal. Anyone approaching a Marine or Iraqi patrol was looked at as a possible insurgent, and not allowed to get too close. The city has seen a shift in the security and the attitude of the local people. The success of the Youth Soccer Day provided the rebirth this city has seen. Marines and police alike were covered with hugging hands and grabbing fingers.

    “I thought that at one point the kids were just going to mob me over,” said Cpl. Joseph Dayner, PiTT communications advisor. “I just kept pushing through the crowd passing out toys.”

    The Youth Soccer Day was a testament to the successful counter-insurgency campaign 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines is conducting in the Hadithah Triad. The Iraqi Police have played a large role in the city’s stability. The force is a lot larger, more professional, and the people of Hadithah readily accept them. It is a sign of hope that the situation here has turned the right corner.

    Photo – Gunnery Sgt. Eric Johnson, operations chief of the Hadithah PiTT plays soccer with local Iraqi children in front of the Iraqi Police Station. Photo by: Cpl. Stephen M. Kwietniak.

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    14 Aug 07
    By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Christopher T. Smith
    Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet
    .

    NORTH PERSIAN GULF (NNS) – Coalition forces are training Iraqi marines to take over the mission of providing security to Iraqi territorial waters in the North Persian Gulf.

    Mobile Security Detachment (MSD) 24 has been conducting a dual mission aboard Iraq’s Khwar Al Amaya Oil Terminal (KAAOT) and Al Basrah Oil Terminal (ABOT) in the Persian Gulf. MSD-24 provides security for the platforms as part of the Coalition’s Combined Task Force (CTF) 158 while simultaneously training Iraqi marines to eventually assume responsibility for the protection of Iraq’s sea-based infrastructure.

    Gunner’s Mate 1st Class (EXW/SW) Timothy Burrell said the Iraqi forces are undergoing advanced training on a variety of possible threats. “They are now countering multiple threats while experiencing casualties such as loss of power and loss of communications. Their exercises [the] last 24 hours [were] rather than just a few,” said Burrell. “They’re really working toward taking ownership of the platforms.”

    Lt. J.G. Danny Soria, ABOT’s officer in charge, agrees that the Iraqis’ training has paid dividends. “The Iraqi marines have responded well to our training program,” said Soria. “Since our arrival, the platoons that have been observed have improved their readiness drastically.” Iraqi marines stand all of the watches aboard ABOT and KAAOT. “Currently, the Iraqi marines are our eyes and ears and the first to react to the threat,” said Soria. “MSD stands a reactionary force.”

    In addition to preparing the Iraqis to better defend the oil platforms, Coalition forces are preparing teams of Iraqi marines to conduct their own Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) operations.

    Coalition forces joined with the Iraqis to conduct Exercise Rapid Talon, Aug. 6, in the North Persian Gulf. During the exercise, Iraqi marines boarded a tugboat that simulated a commercial vessel transiting the region. “Rapid Talon is a routine exercise that we use to evaluate Iraqi boarding teams,” said Royal Navy Lt. Cmdr. Iain Doran, CTF 158’s Iraqi training and transition officer. “We put them through different scenarios to test their core skills and rate their proficiency level.”

    The marines, who are trained by the U.S. Coast Guard, are not only conducting exercises, they are also involved in real-world VBSS operations. “Depending on how well the Iraqi platoons perform during Rapid Talon, the platoons conduct boardings with either a Coalition-led team, or if they performed very well, with only their U.S. Coast Guard trainers,” said Royal Navy Warrant Officer 1st Class Darren Paskins, CTF 158’s assistant Iraqi training and transition officer.

    Doran added that the platoons’ contributions to the Coalition are signs of significant progress in their training. “Some platoons have now completed solo tanker sweeps under the supervision of just two or three of their Coast Guard trainers, and the feedback we’ve received from the masters of the vessels is that the Iraqi boarding teams are very effective and professional,” said Doran. “This is quite a big step, and something that’s only been recently introduced.”

    Coalition forces are training the Iraqis to someday take the reigns of all VBSS operations in their littoral waters. “Ultimately, this training will give the Iraqis the ability to police their own territorial waters,” said Paskins. “It’s important that they get as much experience as possible, so we have them conduct as many boardings as we can in order for them to gain the experience and knowledge that are required to carry out the mission.”

    Doran stressed that although Iraqi forces are making significant strides in their training, CTF 158’s mission is still the responsibility of the Coalition. “The whole mission in the [North Persian Gulf] is conducted by the Coalition,” said Doran. “Inherently, we provide security for the oil platforms themselves and the vessels coming to and from the oil platforms. We do this by conducting Maritime Security Operations.”

    MSO help set the conditions for security and stability in the North Persian Gulf and protect Iraq’s sea-based infrastructure, which provides the Iraqi people the opportunity for self-determination. Iraq’s oil platforms account for about 90 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

    Photo – Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Nickel Samuel assigned to Mobile Security Detachment (MSD) 24 observes Iraqi marines participating in a live-fire exercise. MSD-24 is training Iraqi marines to maintain security in and around the Al Basrah and Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminals, which provides the Iraqi people the opportunity for self-determination. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher T. Smith.

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    14 Aug 07
    By Cpl. Zachary Dyer
    2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (FWD)
    .

    AL ASAD, Iraq – The sounds of a helicopter’s rotor blades cutting through the air overhead is fairly common aboard Al Asad. That the crew’s mission is to support the War on Terror is obvious, but what Marines in those helicopters do once they are out of sight is often unknown to the casual observer on the ground.

    For the members of the “Wolfpack” of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 466, that mission is to transport Marines, supplies and equipment around the Al Anbar Province. “We’re tasked with assault support for (II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward)),” said Lt. Col. Roger McFadden, the Wolfpack commanding officer. “It’s in the shape of passenger, cargo and external operations. We’re also responsible for (Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel) missions. The majority of our tasking is to move cargo and personnel between the (Forward Operating Bases).”

    In the three months that the Wolfpack has been in Iraq, the squadron has racked up approximately 1,600 flight hours. The Marines are also working on obtaining another impressive record – 65,000 Class Amishap free hours. “The squadron has never had a mishap in its entire history, since 1984,” explained McFadden, a Cle Elum, Wash., native. “These guys are proud of the fact that they always fly safe aircraft. It’s because of safe maintenance.”

    The CH-53E “Super Stallions” the Wolfpack flies along with other heavy helicopter squadrons are some of the more maintenance heavy aircraft in the Marine Corps, not because they are old but because of their size. For every one hour spent in the air, the maintenance Marines put in 40 on the ground, according to Sgt. Maj. Brian Milton, the HMH-466 squadron sergeant major.

    “If the birds don’t launch, the mission doesn’t go,” said Milton, a Murietta, Calif., native. “The Marines’ ability to fix the aircraft on a moments notice is the most important thing out here. We have a lot of dedicated Marines, and sometimes we have to tell them to go home. They’re hardworking and dedicated to what they do.”

    Despite the long hours of work required to make sure the squadron accomplishes its mission, the Marines of the Wolfpack have adapted to the rigors of deployment. “They’re handling it really well,” said McFadden. “We’re 90 days into it and they are keeping up with the work and keeping aircraft available.”

    Like most units in Iraq, the Marines of HMH-466 have a wide variety of experience. While some Marines are on their third or fourth, others are on their first deployment. The squadron’s strength comes from the help the more experienced Marines provide to the junior Marines. “It’s never two new Marines working out there together,” said Cpl. Billy C. Roth, a crew chief with the Wolfpack, and a Quitman, Texas, native. “It’s one experienced Marine working with a new one. We train while we work. We’re always training and always working hard.”

    That is exactly what the senior leaders of HMH-466 have come to expect of their Marines – that not only are they professionals in their job, but consummate Marines as well, according to Milton. “The big thing we push upon them is this,” explained Milton. “They may not be out in the trenches, but their trench is the flightline, and they are out there supporting the mission.”

    Photo – Sgt. Devin Linneman, a crew chief with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 466, looks out the ‘hell hole’ of a CH-53E “Super Stallion” to ensure nothing happens to the cargo hanging below the aircraft during an external lift mission. Photo by Cpl. Zachary Dyer.

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    8 Aug 07
    By Cpl. Eric C. Schwartz
    2nd Marine Division
    .

    HUSAYBAH, Iraq – It was a quiet morning patrol; a standard Alpha Company mission. Donkeys, attached to carts, were unmanned while their owners were just waking up to the sound of roosters making their morning calls. The Marines were heading directly to solve a mystery. Who shot up a citizen’s house and why?

    “We had an intelligence-driven patrol where a house was shot up a week ago,” said Cpl. Travis Banks, a team leader with 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, Task Force 1st Battalion, 4th Marines attached to Regimental Combat Team 2.

    Marines are trained in various ways to combat terrorism, whether it is a full-scale battle, investigative searches or looking for rogue Iraqi policeman or local gangsters. “These people are tired of being threatened by the insurgents,” said Cpl. Brian McNeill, a Springfield, Mo., native and team leader with A Company.

    Husaybah used to be a hotbed for insurgency activity, but after years of fighting Marines, the townspeople now want to live in peace and realize the insurgents were only there to cause destruction. The new battle is winning the “hearts and minds” of the people here and that’s done by showing Marines care about the citizens here and by keeping fear away from their homes.

    “The big fighting is done, but the insurgents are trying to intimidate the people,” said Cpl. Peter Andrisevic, a rifleman with A Company. A handful of bullet holes in someone’s door won’t make the strong-willed citizens cower to insurgents, but the quicker the culprits are found, the quicker the people can go on living in peace.

    “This is a dramatic change from OIF II,” Banks said. “This is a one-hundred and eighty degree turn around from what I saw before.” Operation Iraqi Freedom II had major battles in large cities throughout Iraq, but this intelligence-driven war for the safety of Husaybah uses information from its people to capture insurgents and Al Qaeda in Iraq.

    “The people who know the most are the average citizens,” Andrisevic said. Insurgents and AQI [al Qaida in Iraq] know the Iraqi Army and Police, and the Marines are hunting them down through intelligence gathered by citizens looking for justice and peace, so they hide in towns like Husaybah, using guerrilla tactics. “Insurgents are hiding here as a resting area,” Andrisevic said. “They aren’t trying to find us but we’re trying to find them.”

    The enemy can’t hide forever because the people don’t want them in their town. Husaybah thrives off trade and business, and without safety and security, they can’t do either. Working with the newly formed government and coalition forces seems to be the right way in their minds.

    “An IP called in with information about a weapons cache,” McNeill said. The Marine said the IP was a former supporter of the insurgency here but has joined the police force and now fights for the peace and prosperity of his people. The people here want their families to live in peace. Coalition forces want them to have peace.

    “If we don’t stabilize the area and find the insurgents, we’ve wasted the last four years here,” Andrisevic said.

    Photo – Cpl. Peter Andrisevic, a rifleman with Alpha Company, Task Force 1st Battalion, 4th Marines attached to Regimental Combat Team 2 listens to a citizen early morning about shots fired a week ago into his neighbor’s home. Alpha Company Marines had an intelligence-driven patrol investigating who shot at the citizen’s home and why. Photo by Cpl. Eric C. Schwartz.

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    6 Aug 07
    by MC1 Mary Popejoy
    CJTF-HOA Public Affairs
    .

    Aircrft maintainers for Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron-464 at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, were able to see the fruits of their labor in the air July 29 when three of the four CH-53E Super Stallion transport helicopters were airborne at the same time.

    “The whole point of the mission was to thank the maintainers for all their hard work because without them, it would not have been possible,” said Marine Maj. Scott Wadle, HMH-464 operations officer. “We usually train as a section, which is only two aircraft, so for us to get three in the air at the same time is a great credit to their work ethic.”

    HMH-464, which includes more than 70 servicemembers, are poised 24/7 to launch two aircraft at one time to support such missions as personnel recovery, movement of passengers, cargo or gear and casualty evacuations. According to Gunnery Sgt. Justin Elmore, HMH-464 maintenance chief, the CH-53E is a very labor-intensive aircraft, accomplishing this feat in Djibouti is amazing since getting parts is a little harder than in the states.

    “It’s a pretty significant event because right now we’re averaging 34.1 maintenance hours per flight hour on an aircraft, so it’s pretty momentous to have three of our assets in the air at the same time,” he said.

    Getting three out of the four assigned aircraft in the air is a significant event in and of itself, but for the maintainers it wasn’t good enough. To get the fourth one mission-ready, the maintainers worked through the night to troubleshoot some discrepancies so they could launch the next day. Their efforts were successful and proved once again they are committed to their mission here.

    “It is [the] proof in the pudding that these guys will do whatever it takes to get the job done,” said Wadle. “They are never content until the aircraft is ready to go.”

    For Elmore, it’s a good feeling to be a part of a crew that is willing to go the extra mile to complete a task that isn’t always easy to fix. It doesn’t matter if they’re working 12 on 12 off shifts, or working 18 to 20 hours per day, the maintainers have so much pride in what they do and seeing aircraft launch is icing on the cake.

    “They are second to none,” he said. “Just working out in this heat on any given day is a high cost to them and they don’t complain about it ever. They are diligent in their efforts, they have great attention to detail and we appreciate everything they do because without them we wouldn’t be able to do our mission here.”

    Photo – Two Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron-464 CH-53E Super Stallion transport helicopters fly over Djibouti July 29 to celebrate the launching of three CH-53E’s. HMH-464 is poised 24/7 to launch two aircraft wherever needed to support the mission of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Regina Brown.

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    Denver Marines find common bond

    1 Aug 07
    By Staff Sgt. Matthew O. Holly
    13th MEU
    .

    NEAR KARMAH, Iraq — Three Marines from Denver, Colo. find a common ground to build upon as they serve in a twelve-man infantry squad in Iraq. Out of the 11 Marines from 1st squad, 3rd platoon, Kilo Company, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, three are from the greater Denver metropolitan area. Their bond has become stronger after realizing they were all recruited from the same sub-station, Metro East, and two of the three had the same recruiter.

    Although they are all from the same area, they never met each other until joining BLT 3/1. The squad leader, Sgt. Tim C. Tardif, a Highlands Ranch High School graduate, is the firm leader of the group. In terms of the usual squad leader, he is easy going and patient with his Marines. However, the four-time Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran expects a lot from his young Marines no matter where they’re from.

    “When we first get the new Marines from the School of Infantry we have sort of a draft,” said Tardif. “And when I saw that Drewbell and Enriquez were from the Denver area, naturally they were my first round picks.”

    The tie that binds these Marines was evident from the very beginning. The Marines talked about common experiences and places they knew of while growing up in the “Mile-High” city. They all love the Denver Broncos, which is enough to keep the bitterest enemies on friendly terms. “Not only are they good people, but they’re good Marines and well disciplined,” said Tardif, who puts his two fellow Coloradoans in the top three of his squad.

    “The quality of Marines who enlist out of RSS Metro East is very high,” said Staff Sgt. Lawrence W. Watters, canvassing recruiter for RSS Metro East. “We don’t let them settle for the bare minimum. We push them to strive for the best.”

    The second of the three is Lance Cpl. Ian P. Drewbell, an automatic rifleman for 1st squad, who sometimes connects the most obscure actors to Kevin Bacon in between patrols. He joined the Marine Corps to pursue his interest in helicopters, but decided on a different route. “I joined the Marine Corps to become a helicopter crew chief,” said the Eagle Crest High School graduate. “But then I realized that being a grunt is what the Marines are all about– and I still get to fly in helicopters.”

    Drewbell continued by saying that despite a few surprises, his first enlistment is everything he had hoped for. While he hasn’t decided on whether or not to reenlist, he plans on being a helicopter pilot in the future.

    Lastly, Lance Cpl. Taylor L. Enriquez, rifleman and 1st squad radio operator, graduated from Cherry Creek High School in 2003. He’s the character of the trio and has the ability to keep his buddies in stitches during any situation. When it comes to mission accomplishment, however, he is all business.

    “We all come from the same area,” said Enriquez. “And out here we have the same goal, (which is making sure) everyone gets home alive.” Enriquez’s goals are simple–he wants to have a successful tour, go to college and thrive in whatever he does in life. According to Watters, high-quality Marines come from the Denver-area recruiting offices because recruiters challenge potential recruits and instill in them a sense of pride and belonging.

    Photo – Sergeant Tim C. Tardif, squad leader for Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, Kilo Company, 3rd Platoon, 1st Squad, conducts a hasty vehicle checkpoint near Karmah during an evening patrol. Tardif is from one of three Marines in his squad from the Denver area. Photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew O. Holly.

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    25 July 07
    By Lance Cpl. Joseph D. Day
    2nd Marine Division (FWD)
    .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “These missions give us a presence in an area which hasn’t had any coalition forces in it for years or even ever,” Reese said.

    “This will keep the bad guys on their toes and that is really what we’re going for. Keep them guessing so we can catch up to them and get them.”

    Though the Marines had finished with the objective, they were not done. While observing a different area, Reese noticed some additional suspicious activities. They went back to work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Photo – Lance Cpl. Adam A. Ramirez, squad automatic weapon gunner for the scout snipers, runs off the CH-53 Sea Stallion toward the objective. The Marines only have a short time on the ground so they move fast to ensure they can get everything they need done at each site.

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    24 July 07
    By Lance Cpl. Joseph D. Day
    2nd Marine Division (Forward)
    .

    RAMADI, Iraq — As the evening sun started to set, the Iraqi army geared up. After looking over each other’s equipment thoroughly, they prepared to step off.

    On July 21, the 1st Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division, led Marines on a foot patrol through the ghetto of Ramadi to identify local populace needs and how their basic utilities were working

    “This area of Ramadi used to be one of the most dangerous,” said one local citizen. “Every day there were bombs and insurgents fighting the coalition. Now, this area is so quiet that it may even be considered the best in the city.”

    One of the local residents claimed, “I believe that most of this is due to the Iraqi army patrolling this area constantly. Bad guys would walk these streets as if they owned them. Then the Iraqi army started patrolling here, and they haven’t been back since.” With a smile, the patrol and the citizens parted ways.

    The soldiers of the Iraqi army sniper platoon walk through each street carefully, moving from corner to corner, but taking the time to talk to the locals. Everywhere they walked the people came running up expressing their gratitude saying “hello” and “thank you.”

    When asked what the Iraqi army philosophy was when dealing with the people, Iraqi army Sgt. Maj. Abbas Abud Kadin, the senior enlisted man of the Iraqi Scout Sniper Platoon said, “I talked to them with my heart open. I will do anything for these people whether I share a joke, give them candy or just listen to their problems, I do it all with an open heart. I do it because if I help them, they will help me.”

    Walking up to a group of men sitting in the front lawn, Kadin extends his right hand to them and greets them. The rest of the soldiers take a knee and provide security as the group talks.

    The men also said the security in the area has improved drastically in the last two months. Whereas they used to be afraid to sit on their front lawn drinking tea, now they know that no one will bother them. The man said that he can enjoy his time out there with his friends and know that the only interruption they might have will be from friendly Iraqi army soldiers and policemen, stopping by to say “hello.”

    “I try to teach my men to respect the people here, because they could save our lives,” Kadin said. “If we show them respect they will show us respect and help us fight the insurgency.”

    Kadin found a 7.62mm shell casing on the way back to the base. A little curious about why it was in the street he asked some nearby residents.

    They told him the casing had come from a local who had a celebration the day prior.

    “My goal here is to help the good people of Ramadi rid themselves of the insurgency that plagues them. I want all of this country to be safe,” Kadin said. “If it starts here in Ramadi, then so be it. I know that my men and I are doing a very good job. I will terminate as many insurgents as I can, until there are no more to fight, then I will know we are done here. But we will move to the next city to do the same for them.”

    Photo – Iraqi Army Sgt. Maj. Abbas Abud Kadin, the senior enlisted man of the Iraqi Scout Sniper Platoon, hands out candy to some children during a patrol here. The patrol was trying to find out what the citizens of Ramadi needed to make their neighborhoods a better place to live. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph D. Day.

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    This article is very touching and heartwarming. It is amazing how many different opportunities there really are in our Marine Corp! This is just one such remarkable story. I can only imagine that there are so many more…please take a moment and pay some attention to our younger Marines.

    Sources: CentCom and reposted @ DoD Daily News-2.

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